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Ordinary or stupid?

  • Posted on April 26, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Have I run out of a reason to blog? It’s an interesting question, because writing about transition has been a seriously valid exercise that I know other people have valued. But why listen to my thoughts now? I add poetry from time to time, and who knows, one day I should just have a poetry blog. In the meantime I have no intentions towards public rants, and feel that the transition era is almost completely behind me.

And yet I have friends who were hot on my heels for clinical treatment, who for various reasons got caught in delays by an inexcusably bad system, and I still wait for them to catch up. Others have come through already, and it is interesting to see their reactions to completion. Some remain very active in trans* matters, some just disappear. And still, there is social contention about transgender people. I am occasionally touched by it too, and every time there is something possibly respectable in terms of a documentary or media story, I look out for how representative and helpful it is. Maybe something, someday, will make my daughter realise (for example) that a trans* parent was born trans*, and is just a person with an otherwise normal life. It’s as if I still need some of the noise in order to normalise what I have been through. I shall always have been born with a problem, however resolved it now is or can be, and so I shall always be interested in the place of trans* people in society and in healthcare.

It has crossed my mind that it would be interesting now to build a collection of poetry to follow after Realisations, featuring the experience of returning to a normal life after transition. For many of us, even though we have accessed specialist treatment, and a diverse community of people with a shared condition, there is no need to &#8216be’ transsexual or transgender any more. We can be representative, and we can remember. We can be advocates and advisers, or just supportive and empathic. But as much as we move away from the treatment years, we move into lives not dissimilar to before, though without the distress, anxiety and fear. I don’t advocate ‘stealth’ because it can lead back to fear of unwanted discovery, but I think society needs to see that we can live very ordinary lives.

In fact, I think it’s very important. If you can see a thousand very ordinary transitioned people doing ordinary jobs, having ordinary homes to go to, having ordinary friendships and participating in anything from yoga to cookery classes, then someone you know (famous or not) coming out, isn’t going to seem so alien and difficult to deal with. Right now, the defensive mechanism so many people fall back on is to ridicule us: isn’t it just funny to see a man saying he’s a woman? (Because a woman in an executive suit, or jeans and sweater, with a masculine haircut, just doesn’t look so odd.) Yes, there will always be religious-indoctrinated people hanging onto strange beliefs that being transsexual is a sin-loaded choice, but apart from that, hey, we are pretty harmless. What we are doing is revoking the uniform. Just as people in positions of control wear a uniform to look like they have authority (military, police, security etc.) so men are invested with a notional uniform of priority. When people like me throw that off openly, we threaten the authority or primacy. But otherwise we are ordinary, and unthreatening to anyone.

How ordinary is my life then?

To be clear, I have found myself with a degree of security, settled, in a loving relationship and a worthwhile job. My friends are not all trans*, and in fact I don’t go out of my way to go to gender-related gatherings, mainly because my time is full enough with other things. I feel as ordinary as anyone who has a broken marriage behind them, an estranged family, and a degree of financial loss. These things hurt and change you, making you more cautious about restoring more of the same.

But you know, and I know, that in my brain are many memories that don’t quite synchronise with how I now am. Much as I would like it, I cannot remember growing up as a teenage girl. I cannot remember coming to terms with overt same-sex intimacy in a world that doesn’t always like it. I can remember (though it feels surprising vague) having a different kind of body, and how other people related to me that way. I can remember an enormous waste of energy and time over my dysphoria, my felt difference from everyone else. And I can remember being loved for being something I was not. All this is in my head, but is it any more unique than any other individual? Maybe not.

What is different for me is the sense of a new lease of life. It isn’t my fault in any way that I spent too long not knowing, and I am left with a real wish that I hadn’t. It’s just that like so many, I did not want to hurt other people, or become the ‘bad guy’. Much of the change in my life right now is no different from any other divorced or family-estranged person. Much is no different from anyone who finds a new life with a new person. On the outside, I really do hope that I present ordinariness.

But only I can relate the feelings inside. What does it feel like to have my body look and feel so different from how it was before? What does it mean to be loved without secrets, and just for being me? What does it feel like to have sex in a different way? What is it really like to have made such a transition after so long? These are the things I can’t really describe too well, though I try. These are the inner reflections that can never be ordinary, because to be honest, I am still filled with a bit of a sense of wonder that only I can know. If I seem happy, it is partly because a bit of me finds it hard to believe how right everything feels.

So somewhere between the unique and the ordinary, there is – just me. I don’t want to be called anything else, labelled, or made representative as such. I just want to be seen to be ordinary, but in a way that says if someone happened to be born transsexual, it’s OK, it’s normal.

Yes, but …

What about the cause? Am I being a touch exclusive, some might say privileged? Why am I not fighting for transgender rights, for people identifying as no-gender, queer, cross-dressing (non-fetish, because I think that can be a rather different thing), or gender-declaratory (i.e. deliberately overt)? Maybe it’s simply because I’m not the best person to do it, and I don’t feel connected enough. Maybe because I feel it would dominate my life without being the most important thing to me.

Last night we were watching The Age of Stupid, a 2008 documentary-style film about climate change, looking back from a devastated inhospitable world in 2055. The film led to the 10:10 movement, and I was reminded that I haven’t heard anything much about #notstupid or 10:10 since. Why has climate change lost urgency? In 2005-10 I was heavily into climate and peak-resources issues, and I too lost focus. And yet climate change is far more important in humanity’s terms. Which all leads me to the point that in the midst of all our ordinary lives, we have to choose where to focus, what is important, and where we can make a difference. I was an activist in other issues years ago, before my life caught up with me. So I’m not afraid to get involved, stand up, and speak out about things that matter.

Perhaps I need to go back to books I bought just before ‘recent events’, which I intended to read and digest but didn’t get round to. Now then; what was the first on the shelf? Ah, yes:

Transition Towns