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  • Posted on July 6, 2014 at 9:51 am


This week I had a conversation with a cat. I had gone to deliver a birthday card to be delivered by my former wife to my daughter who lives I know not where. I don’t even know if the envelope will be opened. Who else would send a card in an envelope written in purple with just her name? Will her partner suggest she opens it? Just to see? My guess is that they never mention me to each other. I wonder what the conversation would be if they did? There was no message, only love and happy birthday.

Anyway, I stepped out of my car to meet my old cat, a ginger tom, one of two, which I do miss. I tickled his ears as I always did, squeaked as I always did, talked to him and told him how I missed him. He was appreciative and did all the right things. I must have given him a full five minutes before ringing the bell. I handed the card, she took it. No smile or welcome, just an uncertain holding of the front door, shooing the cat out as he tried to go in. She explained, after repeated attempts to set the cat on his way in any other direction but this, that this was a spitting-image neighbour cat, not ‘mine’.

There was no real conversation; our last evening out had been ‘difficult’. I left, feeling like the cat. He looked the same and was rejected for not being the right one. I don’t look the same, and was rejected even though I was the right one.


I spent a delightful morning with a friend from Bristol. After friending on Facebook largely because I already had met her daughters, this father (yes, that’s right), a professional surgeon, was coming over to Brighton and we agreed to meet. What made the conversation lively was in part due to my book of poetry Realisations, which she found thoughtful, evocative, even helpful. But more than that, here was someone happy to live as I at first had, in a dual role, male and female. This I found fascinating, because I remember those days, when I too asked permission to be female in certain spaces, because I didn’t want to cause offence or alienate, whilst inside I was screaming to be allowed out. My friend does it very well, and will never follow the same route as I have. Her daughter joined us for lunch, and we had a lovely time together: one bisexual, one transgender dual-role parent and one transitioned transsexual friend of both. None of us had any difficulty with this, and no shortage of conversation.

And this father, this respected professional, had told me of their being outed by The Sun newspaper. A deliberate attempt to sensationalise being transgender in order to invite rejection and ridicule.

Support group

There is an invaluable drop-in support group in Brighton for gender-questioning people of all ages, called the Clare Project. Once a month I have the option of joining them for an evening meal out in Brighton. Thankfully there are plenty of places in Brighton that do not mind a very motley crew of maybe 30 gender-questioning and transitioned people. And we are diverse. This week, as ‘my last’, I made the effort to go along, even though I make no effort these days to inhabit trans spaces. I bumped into someone I only knew on Facebook, recognised them easily (early days) and was not recognised because they had felt accosted by just a woman in the street. But the evening was a chance to meet my favourite trans man, there was someone who went my way at the same hospital just a I was coming out, and a friend who joined the group soon after me. There were others who are moving nicely along, as well as a few cis folk friends and partners, and some non-transitioners. I did say diverse …

We don’t just talk about gender things; we have real lives. But we do have things in common, such as broken families, loss of affection, triumphs and loneliness, battles with ignorant people, even difficulties finding an income or a friendly place to live. I was just high on the excitement of impending closure, full of energy.

My trans man friend said how much he simply missed cuddles. Me too. We hugged.


I was passed over for a job opportunity that I wanted, and that I could quite easily have done. I felt a judgement against me was unfair. I checked it out with colleagues in sporadic conversations, and they felt the same. I wondered whether my first year in this first job as a woman had tainted my record, and reflected on how the past two years have changed me. I had walked in just weeks after transitioning from ever expressing as male again, into a new corporate environment led by and full of men. To consult and advise. I got a contract, then a job. As a trans woman (everyone was told). In a wig and silicone boobs. I got on with it, survived inhabiting an entirely male office, found my feet (albeit with a slightly belligerent side to assert my non-maleness), and went through months when I cried all the way to work as my life fell apart, rejected by family and ultimately beginning a single life away from all I held dear. Including the cats.

I had this conversation with my current manager, who is now to be replaced as my manager by the person who got the job I wanted. I am one layer further down the organisation, just as I am craving to rise again! I related how I know what it is like to be a woman at work. But also a man among men, with those expectations. An advantage? Certainly eye-opening from both sides. And I reflected with her how the two years had treated me, and how newly-empowered I now feel. When I return to work and complete my healing, I shall have left behind all requests for permission and proofs for the existence of me as a woman. This will be a real difference, and the future is wide open to me. I have grasped responsibility for my own life, found my own authenticity, and I shall never give it away again.

This kind of conversation has an honesty I could never previously have expressed at work.

The world

It has also been an interesting week of online conversation. Brynn Tannehill wrote in the Huffington Post this week about the very thing I have blogged, regarding family treatment of transitioning parents, partners, children, and how the sheer distaste is boosted by public othering of transgender people. This is transphobia: unlike many other phobias it is fear. Fear that there is something horribly odd about us, corrupting and changing anyone who comes close. Yes, I too am ‘icky’ when it comes to imagining affection and intimacy with me. You might have fucked someone for decades, lovingly, passionately. But now as trans? Yuk!

Then Julie Bindel launched her new book, with a chapter on sexuality being a choice. A good time to launch this, being Pride season. But aside from her complete misunderstanding of gender dysphoria (if she believe it exists at all) here she has she muddled what may be her own bisexuality, with being simply lesbian or gay. It is interesting to know what the causality of any sexuality or gender identity is, but it must never be used to define people in or out of existence. There is to be a debate/discussion featuring Julie Bindel, Qazi Rahman, Stella Duffy, Patrick Strudwick and Kira Cochrane, which I am sure will be fascinating, but I don’t seriously think we know very much. Who knows whether the cause of being lesbian by nature is the same as that of being gay? Or whether there is any link at all between gender and sexuality, or whether the origins are of a completely different kind.

What I do know is that Paul McHugh, writing in the Wall Street Journal, and who still asserts that people like me are suffering a psychological disorder and delusion, is wrong. I can tell you whether gender confirmation surgery (or genital reconstruction, or whatever) is a final cure, in just two weeks time. Right now, I already have no doubt.

If anyone said, ‘you can have all the love and affection in the world again, if only you keep your bits’ I would say no. Some of my conversations have been bad, most good. But it is my conversation that really counts, not anyone else’s opinion. And my conversation decides who I might meet, work with, love, even (I can hope) fuck, without it being icky.

These are just a week’s conversations, but at least people are talking, and little by little, some understanding is growing.

A colleague (yes, you!) expressed the hope that I would keep writing after my surgery. Yes, of course. There are too many conversations to ignore, and anyway, I was born like this: a writer.