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Trans is not a word to understand

  • Posted on September 14, 2018 at 11:28 pm

I think some people try to understand what it is to be transgender by trying to understand the words. If they can construct an argument about the words, their origins and use, they have grasped how real, people like me are.

Surely, I would be happy to have made no changes to my body or life if only this social construct of gender did not exist. Yes! I could have lived happily with a male body, dressed as I wished, shaved, gone bald with age and maintained all that cut and thrust of testosterone – because no-one would have minded. I could have just ‘been myself’!

Not so, dear reader, not so.

I am not a term to be understood. Etymology and use do not come near expressing what it is to be trans. Like old shoes, words get baggy with much use and don’t fit anymore.

I was not ‘born in the wrong body’ at all, any more than someone with red hair who hates it, or someone with a disability, or someone who has simply grown too tall from hormone problems. It is not the wrong body. I am what I am. It is just that brain and body development got a bit out of kilter somewhere early on. I can’t change my innate sense of self, but I can change my body.

What about you? Are you definitely a woman, or definitely a man? Are you sure? Or is your first question prefixed by ‘physically’, or ‘biologically’? If you do, you need to read up on the many aspects of what define ‘biological’ sex. Big time.

Or do you just know? I don’t think you need a mirror in the morning, or to have a feel around just to be sure. I don’t think you need a second opinion, and if it differed or was doubtful, I don’t think you might change your mind. When did you last dig out your birth certificate just to check out that your opinion of yourself matches that of the doctor or midwife?

Even if you live a non-binary life and dislike the idea of actually ‘being’ non-binary … you know what you are not.

Do you understand what it is to know if you are male, female or neither or a bit of both?

  • Seven years ago I began to understand.
  • Six years ago I began to live in a new way.
  • Five years ago I lived alone.
  • Four years ago I had transforming surgery.
  • Someone told me: ‘this is just the beginning’
  • Three years ago I began living with someone I deeply love.
  • And since then I have understood that for all the beginnings and endings, some will never understand.

I have been told that I am not a woman. I have been told that I am a man. I have been told that I am trans, or deluded, and many other things. I have been told that I am not lesbian, that I must be gay, or that I am still a hetero man because I used to be married while registered as a man.

I have been told many times what I am, what I am not, and effectively what I am not allowed to be.

What do you think? And where did you get your ideas from?

When my children were much younger, they had a friend who was the most tomboy a child I have ever known. A little later, my son had a trans friend at school. That was it. No issue or problem. Unlike me (yeah, well!), they had gay and lesbian kids in their school, and that’s just how they were. Friends I had at university were gay, lesbian and bi. I came to know people with intersex conditions. I discovered that there are men born with micro-penis, women born without a uterus. A colleague had a hysterectomy at a very young age, and so could never experience what most women share. And friends with polycystic ovaries and hormonal imbalances. More and more women who divorce men and begin lesbian relationships.

I wonder what their many life experiences have each been like. Could I segregate them by their life experience confidently and exclusively as women and men? If I DNA tested them and mapped their chromosomes, would that help? What about their sexual attractions (or lack of)? Would that help me divide them into straight, bi, gay and lesbian? I wonder how clearly I could research and gather physical, psychological, social and mental attributes in such a way as to divide them up?

But why?

Surely their needs are different. Medically? Socially? Surely a trans person is not as really the gender they claim, as someone born with unquestionably clear genitals and chromosomes and sexuality? I mean, it is so confusing that someone born with enough of a penis but XXY, who used to appear straight male, lives as female and has a female partner and calls themselves lesbian. I mean, surgery doesn’t really change your sex does it?

You say it is only confusing because we squish people into socially constructed boxes. If only the boxes didn’t exist, we would all be happy; no conflict of definitions. Well, I place myself in society where I feel I belong. Why do you want to place me where you think I belong?

I find this kind of narrative about sex, sexuality and gender no different from nationalism. Once upon a time there was a golden age, where everyone lived and worked happily together, the sun shone equally on all, there was a roof over everyone’s head and bread on the table. Wars did not happen, no-one was cheated or downtrodden; a benevolent king was on the throne and life was … good. That must have been before others came in, invaded and spoiled it all, with different languages, different ideas.

Was there not also a time when men were men, women were women and we all knew our place? Well that wasn’t so good for women, was it? So now we have feminism, we must protect at all costs what it means to ‘be a woman’. And that’s where the parallel golden age of gender breaks down. It was never good. The patriarchy still rules, just as first nations people all over the world constantly face erasure and victors rule the historical narrative.

Keeping transgender people out protects nothing, and only ingrains trans resentment against the gender nationalists, even those who define ‘woman’ and throw gender out as false. Let’s be clear, a feminist who is more radical and excludes trans women as not being female or women, is a trans-exclusionary radical feminist. It isn’t just a slur, it isn’t derogatory, it is a description of a formula of feminism, originating in 2008, to distinguish feminists who were, and who were not against inclusivity of trans women.

However, if we are to be a society that listens, accepts diversity and seeks unity rather than division, it is no good boxing people up. But why not do it by letting people choose their boxes, and letting them choose their own mix? That isn’t a threatening or undermining thing to do, and it’s the way the human species has ultimately made its way all along. What we haven’t done so well, is add equality. ‘If you’re going to be that, you can’t do this.’

That takes us on to rights. Rights. Trans rights. LGB rights. What are they? Principally, they are protections to ensure equal treatment of people who are disliked and discriminated against, not for what they choose to do, but for what they are, in their being, in their humanity.

But I don’t want rights. I just want equality. And that comes from understanding that it is me you need to understand, know and respect, not words and ideas you don’t like, or feel are confusing. You don’t need to get your inner construct sorted, or your philosophy of gender or sexuality. Don’t fit me to your ideas in order to understand what I say I am, because that will only make me acceptable to you in your terms.

Anything else simply puts me in a ‘reserve’ box because you don’t really want me to belong anywhere too close to you.

Trans is not a behavour.
Lesbian is not a behaviour.
I don’t need accommodating.
I am here.
I am.
Just like you; no less.

Midas disenchanted

  • Posted on December 20, 2014 at 11:40 am

‘I am not a lesbian …’, she said, as she lay in my arms, aglow.

‘No’, I replied, ‘I don’t make you anything. You are a lover.’

Midas sulked. We had found gold, because we had touched each other without enchantments, neither to gain nor to grasp, not to enrich ourselves nor possess, but to share what we had to give. We did not turn each other into anything; only lovers.

From the beginning of this blog, I have known that for very many people, simply to know me is almost too much. I evoke a response by being present. I disturb expectations with my confidence, with my presumption that I belong wherever I go. I confuse by not enacting that I am different. I am who I am, not changed, but released; but I am also an influence, a provoker of response, simply by being there.

Just over three years ago I would walk on the side of the street in the same direction as traffic, so that no-one driving would have time to look at me and decide I was not a woman after all. Once, when I didn’t, I was shouted at from a car. The story is Hey, Mr Transvestite, where I learned that people’s responses said more about them than about me. Always. Even my then wife, who would no longer undress fully in front of me, because of the implication of having a woman in her bedroom, even if I did not look like one, at the end of each day.

And so I learned to think of Midas, of the awful truth, that anyone who touched me would be changed, would be afraid to touch.

Over the years I have missed touch more than anything else, but yes, I have changed people. Those who have said that at first it was hard to be with me, but who came to see that I was real and honest. Those who decided that I am unacceptable, and in whom something of themselves has fossilised. And those I have met for the first time with my subsequent complete confidence in being alive, who may have been surprised that I dare be ‘normal’. Or who did not, or do not, know my past, and then come to find out, with a realisation that I am authentic, not acting, trustworthy.

Yes, I change people, but none of this is about me.

This last week, I and a woman I really like and trust, fell in love. Without expectation or condition, we could never have matched up in online dating, only in meeting minds and finding that unspoken connection. Guided? I feel so. But the most wonderful part of it all has been having no need to explain in order to be touched and experienced. We left the labels on the floor by the door. She is. I am. We are. And together we experience togetherness in a way I feel I have never known. Maybe because I have never been so honest and uncomplicated. Maybe because I ask nothing but honesty in return. Mostly, because there is no strength in anything without honesty and complete vulnerability, and I would rather give of myself out of this, than make deals on anything less.

The advantage? Well, maybe hundreds of pages of this blog, in which I have bared my soul, and at times my body, almost. I can have no pretence, and I no longer can bear to. So I have few secrets from my lover, who has read so much.

And yet we still face the shadow of Midas, sulking, disenchanted. Am I a woman? Or am I just forever trans, suspect, ambiguous? Which, if either, of us is lesbian to other people? What does this mean to friends and family? The chain reaction goes on, because to us we are simply what we are together, and only when we part and move with others does any of this matter. Midas’s shadow is out there, with all the wrong values, whilst we have found something far beyond gold.

Dieses Blog ist für dich, mein Herz … Midas ist tod.

Found images

  • Posted on November 1, 2014 at 12:49 pm

The sepia girl stares expressionless,
shuffled from the pack of brown mottled paper
in crisp white lace dress and Sunday shoes.
She’s young, innocent and a long time ago –
it’s the camera that says she cannot smile.
I imagine her jumping up and running free.

Next a military man, too young to fight,
a smaller square, a formal pose –
maybe the one before leaving on campaign.
He’s innocent too, unsmiling but proud
in uniform undisturbed by war.
I imagine him standing up and marching away.

Now a grey-tone picture of an older man,
and he is grey too, gravity of age, no smile
in suit and tie, tall starched collar, cane.
Nothing in his stiff upper lip betrays his life –
his wars and wages pushed it deep inside.
I imagine him staying there when all have left.

‘That’s your great grandfather’, she called.
‘All of them. Yes, I know – the dress.
They all did. Such pretty boys that
went to war, to colonies, to banks –
trading British manliness for all their lives.
I imagine they forgot their growing days.’

‘I wouldn’t look at those’, she called.
‘Erotica is as old as the camera – or paint!’
The tiny prints scatter on the table,
ivory nudes, draped in studios –
nature for the discerning gentleman.
I notice one is different, lift it up.

There’s a coy sepia smile in this one,
unblemished by time, rarely seen by light.
In elegant gown, jewels, upright, proud –
and innocent too. On this rare occasion
inside out, this one true picture of him.
I imagine he remembered the lacy dress.


2012 © Andie Davidson


  • 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

Dis-appearances: stealth or skin?

  • Posted on July 27, 2013 at 9:05 am

We have evolved and survived – we being every living creature on this planet – through expert pattern recognition of things that matter most. For a bacterium, perhaps a chemical signature, for a bat an auditory echo, for an antelope, stripes moving the wrong way in tall grass, for a human, maybe a facial expression or the face itself. In fact our senses are all designed for pattern recognition, to know food from poison, welcome from warning, friend from foe, mate from challenger.

But for us as humans it has become incredibly complex. An actor is not really threatening you; their terrifying violence will become beans on toast as soon as the camera stops or the curtains close. And we thrive on novelty and invention, so the challenge of the unfamiliar is always with us. Sometimes we lose and a real danger is not spotted: insecticide toxins, environmental disaster, over-confidence is a dangerous place, early experiments with radioactive substances. Sometimes we win, and a new invention raises our game, an unexpected relationship becomes love, a crowded room of strangers becomes a welcome.


Military technology that deflects radar enquiry (stealth) removes pattern from the response. Signals are absorbed, scattered and confused. You don’t get back a clear picture, or any meaningful picture or signature at all. It’s better than being ‘under the radar’. Its purpose is to confuse, to be invisible, so that an infiltrating mission, aggressive or surveillance, can go undetected.

As a borrowed term, I am very uncomfortable with adopting it for living as a transsexual woman. I am not intending to deceive anyone, but neither do I want to stand out. I want to adopt normality, not invisibility, and as trans* people do gain more acceptability in society, the fear factor will reduce. Being ‘found out’ is not something I want to happen. I want the conversation always to be:

‘You’re trans, aren’t you?’
‘Yes, that’s right.’
‘Oh. OK.’

In other words, my pattern has been noticed but it means I am friend not foe.

But this is a very difficult one indeed, because being trans* is not like being gay or lesbian or bi. I do not need another trans* person in order to have a relationship that is normal to me, whereas being gay or lesbian does. So I may need to be openly lesbian whilst not openly trans*. Being trans* is a diagnosis that has treatment to make you as un-trans* as possible. I used to think I had to live as if I was a man, because of my physiology and social expectation, but that is history. It is over; done; finished.

My male features, some of which I can do nothing about, like hand size, large big toes, a broader ribcage, will always make me noticeable. So I really do understand the grief a younger person feels, that correcting their genitals and torso, even their face, may still not be enough to assert without explanation, their own gender. If it didn’t matter to anyone else, it wouldn’t matter at all. But can I really ever be the object of desire to another? A frightening thought.

We present patterns to those around us, and they recognise and respond. I cannot make my big toes slender, but you can let it be completely OK. I don’t need stealth, you need to adjust your pattern recognition response. Being trans* is normal, not disconcerting or repulsive. The trouble is, I am in charge of myself, but I cannot change society around me except by slow, if vocal, influence. I am living now, today; tomorrow will not do for social acceptance.

Under the radar?

We do live with pattern recognition, and society assuredly has not adjusted. Most of the time I am just flying under the radar. I get on with life, I make myself look as normal as possible, whilst expressing my personality and individuality. I do a good job at work, I meet lots of people in many different settings. Being transsexual is not an issue. Until …

‘There’s that man in drag!’

As I left my flat a few evenings ago, a young man (isn’t it always?) in a car, announced this loudly to his friend. He was announcing his insecurity. His pattern recognition (maybe he has been around since I moved in, and remembers the earlier days) still says: ‘I know what to do with man, and I know what to do with a woman. This person confuses me. They are only in my book of shapes as a man in drag, and I have no better understanding. I feel safer by alerting my friends to something I don’t understand, rather than saying nothing because it doesn’t matter.’

As always, this young man spoke about himself, not me, but yes, I did find it offensive. And disappointing. Why was I being mis-identified at all?

I have no need to avoid this person in future, because the problem on one level isn’t mine at all. But if I could wave a magic wand, and become an attractive woman, would I? Well, maybe I would, just to avoid the hassle. But being stealth-configured to avoid hassle, risks the accusation of deceit, and frankly, I should not need to hide anything.


A lot of popular software applications, from this blog to games, offer alternative ‘skins’. The same thing underneath, no change in functionality or rules, just pink instead of green, flowers instead of camouflage. As an alternative to stealth, adopting a different skin, is perhaps feasible. I am what you see, and I want you to recognise that this is only a skin, and that yes, we have all chosen these presentations: I, as a transsexual woman with my style, and you, as a cis-person with your style. Or as a lesbian with your dyke style, another with a femme style, and so on.

So instead of stealth, in place of acting, and renouncing fear, throwing away the pattern-recognition manual for gender, I want you to know that inside I am exactly what I say I am. And that my skin is my familiar garb, not for you to question, but to understand why I wear it.

My ribcage does not make me a man. My dress is not drag. Ask me and I will be straight with you, and explain as best I can. But I will not hide just to assuage your prejudices. I did not choose this, just as you did not choose your gender – or your shoe size.

Well, this is what I would like. I am horribly aware that even for me, there are those I counted even as friends who ‘don’t know how to relate to me’. Even my wife and daughter don’t know, so have distanced themselves to a safe place for them. Yes, me, a threat to their normality: you can’t be my dad so you can’t be my parent. You can’t be my man, so you can’t be my partner or lover. Pattern recognition has destroyed my family, and there is no stealth imaginable there. If anything, living before realisation was stealth, and I have renounced it.

All around the world, every month, trans* people are murdered for being unfamiliar to the pattern-recognition handbook. Stealth would present a constant fear of being discovered, the radar points too low, the unwillingness of society to learn new patterns is not there. They are hated for being different. I am lucky. Very lucky.

Out in my skin

I can’t get out of my skin, I own it. But this is the bit I also choose. I choose for taste, but also for acceptability, not to hide, but to present. Some have a problem with it, but I don’t. Stealth? No. Discretion? Maybe. I am confident in my skin. But see me beyond it, because that’s where recognition really lies.

Related poem for reflection and fun: Patterns