Light at the end

  • Posted on June 14, 2014 at 2:21 pm
Are you just realising that you are transgendered? It may be a joy for some. For most of us it is unstoppable and scary. What are you going to do, at the point where it seems unmanageable, and potentially starting on a long journey with a lot of change. I never said it was easy, but here’s a view from the other end of the tunnel.

October 2010, and a man in smart-casual clothes and close-cropped grey, receding hair is sorting through the sale rack in a quality store. He’s forgotten about being surreptitious, and given up thinking about how this seems. He is buying his first skirt and feels he just isn’t going to stop himself any more. In the back of his mind, he knows something is changing forever. A recess of sadness is a shadow on the relief he feels, because there is no way he is going to be able to explain this. At this point he doesn’t even know that he is transgender, that there is a diagnosis for this, that it is normal for people born like him. That there are thousands of people within a few miles radius of this store, who were born the same.

He will go home and hide his purchases and wait for a coming weekend when family will be away. His daughter and wife are having a girls’ weekend in London. He is defined out of his own family. And he will be a girl for the weekend. There is no fantasy or fetish attached to this, and in the end he will confess. That he bought a skirt and jumper, spent a couple of days wearing them. That he simply felt perfect. And will realise with joy and horror that ‘he’ is not appropriate. The realisation will come tumbling in, and very quickly ‘transgender’ will enter his vocabulary. He will gradually begin talking about being both genders, dual gendered, two-spirit, a normal trans person, and soon, very soon, acknowledge that he is she, take on a female name, use it online, acquire a separate email address, and turn the page.

The acknowledgements page faces the contents page, and the chapter titles are frightening. She is seeing unfamiliar headings and can no longer close the book. Months will become years, in which she will write every week about this journey. It will be Andie’s Place. This will be the hardest journey in her 55-year life, traumatic and filled with grief, anxiety, the need for constant justification and she will lose completely the life and family she has loved and depended on.


It is now June 2014, one month away from the end of the procurement of change. She will grow and leave the journey behind, having learned so much more about life, about love, about being different. There is nothing more to ask for, or persuade others about. No-one to stand in her way of personal identity and fulfilment. No reason to stand out, or defend. No special service, no professionals as gatekeepers to her life. She will awake from anaesthesia, euphoric. Several weeks of pain and then a few months with discomfort will simply have to be borne, but with a now-familiar gratitude for closure.

The feeling she has is, yes, relief. The realisation of being transgendered – and then that transition is a lengthy process, not an event – has become clearer, as being a journey with an end. Her history will include all her life events: a slightly incongruous mix of experiences, expectations, conditioning, confusion, fatherhood and womanhood, constraint and freedom, that is rich, unusual, but integrated.

Her conversation will change perceptibly, because the one pursuit that has driven her life for so long will be achieved. Her poetry has already changed, its voice being still reflective, but outwards. Her dance has changed, having developed out of nothing. Her movements have noticeably lost their defensive, protective and escaping shapes, and now she skates, swims and flies, extended fully in the space.

Her employment is still good, but she is realising that stepping back and down, as a comfort and space within which to find herself, is a frustration to her leadership instincts. Working as a woman has been interesting, from encounters where men don’t expect her to have an answer, let alone a correct one, to those where she is simply not quite equal – or conversely where being transsexual is a good enough reason to expect differently from her than an ‘ordinary’ woman.

Life has come not exactly full circle, because whilst back in the real and ordinary world, ‘real and ordinary’ have been redefined. It has been a spiral, thankfully upwards.

With the end in sight, her message to anyone feeling they are at the beginning of this story, is that whilst the journey feels unavoidable, dark, destructive even, it is not a blind alley. The tunnel may at times be water-filled, but you can hold your breath long enough. It may be dark with no light at the end visible, but it is only a bend. There is only one person in this particular tunnel, because all are diferent. And that person is you. It may seem lonely, because no-one else can walk, crawl or swim this way with you. There may be blockages to worm around, or currents in the water that throw you about. But there is no reason to die in here, or to despair and give up simply because it is dark and unknown. People may be unkind, even cruel. Many will never understand. But they are not what matters. You entered this place not knowing what it would be like. The entrance seemed big enough to engulf you. As you leave, and you will, the way out will seem small, because you will have grown. It will be quiet, leafy, green and bright, undisturbed by thrashing limbs and protests. No-one fights to get out, because the air and light and freshness is simply welcoming and wonderful.

She still remembers him, and why he is no more. Not dead, transformed, made real. He received love for being him, but it was at enormous cost. Now she is only known for being real. Love may still seem a world away, but the world is loving in all those spaces that mean most. Being appreciated for music, for writing and for dancing is a wonderful confirmation of her personhood. Above all, among women, she finally and fully belongs.


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