You are currently browsing all posts tagged with 'confusing'.
Displaying 6 - 10 of 19 entries.

The first year …

  • Posted on March 29, 2013 at 8:42 pm

It’s my first year of school. I remember all sorts of things; so much impressed itself on me. The climbing frame in the playground was a welded metal pipe affair in the days before soft ground, of coloured coatings, and attractive shapes like tanks. (Why, dear god why, do we make tanks for kids to play on? Or tractors, or why not animals?) Anyhow, I remember the cold metal, how brown and shiny it was in all the places most played on. Looking at it today it would be maybe five feet tall, mainly cubic in design with a high point. That was for king of the castle. For boys to shout from, while girls used the swings. They brought their own skipping ropes. I had one, with blue handles, because I asked for one, and didn’t see why only my sister should have one.

I think that one day I may have got to the top, and thought it bravely high, but I didn’t go on the climbing frame with the boy swarm. There was a bar instead that girls swung around. It once had attachments, but no more; just the same brown-shiny, hand-polished, tummy-buffed bar. Girls at least used to do that: swing upside down from their knees, and show their knickers because this was before they wore trousers. And I am in this playground, walking around the perimeter kerb between grass and gravel, talking to a girl, sharing biscuits, belonging.

People still ask me: ‘When did you know?’ Of course I didn’t ‘know’, I just didn’t feel the same as everyone else. Thankfully at home I didn’t have many expectations placed on me, and had the freedom to play with dolls, at house, anything my sister and the girl up the road wanted to. I didn’t especially do boy stuff, other than that is what I was given, so a boat with a motor that went the length of the bath in two seconds and had to be turned around, was just as fun, if limited to weekly bath times. Mixing cement was no different from mixing a cake (both when very young). It was just joining in.

My first year of junior school, placed me in a grim and blackened old building, where entrances were headed ‘Girls’ and ‘Boys’ in sandstone swirls, behind which lay girls’ and boys’ cloakrooms. Separate playgrounds prevented boys from being too rough around girls, because their games were so different. I never did find the playground where I could feel safe. This same year saw our one family holiday, conceded with yellow holiday forms during term time. There was special pocket money budget for the week in mixed-weather Wales, and my sister chose a toffee coloured bear (actually he was chocolate and I remember the smell of his fur, but ‘toffee’ made a better name). That bear was loved and hugged every day and went everywhere. I chose a yacht with red sails called Diana. I can’t remember the choosing process much, but my dad enjoyed it, sailed it, reinforced the rigging because the weather wasn’t very good, had to buy a boat hook, then a ball and string in order to retrieve it after the wind blew it (of course) from A to B, where B was the other side of accessible. I can’t remember how many times it sailed, but it must in all have been about half a dozen times I stood and watched my boat. I got what boys got. Yes I felt a proud owner, but it wasn’t, in so many ways, mine.

A visiting aunt bought us a little present to come home to, and they were little pairs of dancers about two inches high. My sister’s were ballet dancers. Mine were Hawaiian and I loved them; especially the girl, for the swirl of her hair and blue skirt, the smoothness of her body, the sway of her arms. There was more liking and meaning in that tiny figure than any boats and rockets. Maybe I was already dancing inside.

My first year of (single sex) grammar school has featured in another blog, but for the first time I was in a place without rescue, where the expectations, academically, socially, behaviourally, were fairly plain, and this was where boys became men. Thus undistracted by everything most of my peers liked to do in breaks, after school or at weekends, I kept my head down and simply did very well. It was the year I was ill with scarlet fever, self-diagnosed by intuition, guided by goodness-knows what, but which took me into isolation for a number of weeks. I think it was the last time I had an illness that really grounded me for more than a couple of weeks, until pneumonia this month. It was about the same time of year as this. I read, copiously. It snowed.

My first year of university was probably my lowest ever point. I scraped in on clearing, separated from my best friend, my girlfriend, and entered a men’s hall of residence, with the blokiest blokes you can imagine, sharing a study with one, and understanding nothing of their way of life. By now feminine urges were long in place, but this was scary. I could be found out, and I was completely alone.

My first year in employment wasn’t good either. Sending a fresh creative postgraduate to Stockton on Tees (no offence, I’m sure it’s much improved!) into then somewhat gender-segregated management isn’t clever, especially when they have chosen office management (a largely female domain at the time) and are expected to do the male things outside work in a competitive commercial environment. I did not fit, was not well-trained or supported and found my way back into publishing in order to retrieve my integrity and self-esteem. And can you imagine an unknowing trans 20-something having to stocktake women’s clothes? I felt extremely vulnerable.

Of course since then there have been other first years, with better outcomes, but just as equivocal. However, being more of my choosing, at least were moderated with some small sense of security.

But of course the significance really, having just been asked again yesterday: ‘When did you first know?’, is that this weekend is my first anniversary. One year ago I kicked over the traces and forever left the presumption of male. One year ago I was truly freed, not with permissions (that was very mixed) but with complete certainty and conviction. The year between is largely in this blog. Some bits I intend to feature more carefully in weeks to come (now that I feel I can), and some are quite sensitive. But as it is now, I’ve gone through so much, and every single potential challenge to my transition has been as mist. Clinging, maybe, dragging on, but finally, I feel now, laid to rest. I am where I want to be, and when I walk into my next gender clinic assessment in just over a month, there will be a very settled and ordinary woman with things to discuss about her future.

It may have been a traumatic year, but it has all come good so far. No climbing, no kings and castles, no more struggling to fit into behaviours and roles that were never mine, and life is very much my choice.

Happy Anniversary, Andie.

Semantic hegemony, if you know what I mean

  • Posted on July 5, 2012 at 11:38 pm

Sometimes things collide and I feel a small blog coming on. This one involves the proposition that, if gender had never been defined as strictly binary, and anyone could live anywhere in the spectrum they wished, would fewer people feel the need for a solely binary solution to their own gender identity?

A paper (‘Psychotherapy for Gender Identity Disorders’) by Az Hakeem was noted today, which proposed a form of group therapy to reduce gender dysphoria, where the author suggests that a body/mind disagreement can as equally be resolved by treating the mind or perception. His thesis that trans* people are more gender binary than cis folk is somewhat disingenuous of course, but he also proposes that sex is scientifically verifiable, whereas gender is a social construct.

Then a friend was enquiring about implications for reversing transition (which some do; it is why full transition is taken so cautiously and painfully slowly). Let’s face it, the road is very rough and the hatred and bigotry one meets requires an enormous resilience. Which is why I reckon I have never seen such generosity and such strength as I have among trans* people.

And then a relative (I have a very small extended family) that I was keeping in touch with over my own transition revealed a depth of bigotry such as I had not as yet encountered. One email a few months ago (no reply), then a helpful follow up yesterday, evoked thinly disguised hatred (or fear, I suspect) and a very commanding last word between us forever.

Finally, New Zealand is adding to the list of countries including a third gender on passports (Mx or X is used), which immediately presents non-binary or transitioning people as ‘other’, which, unless you are out and proud, and everyone is freely using a third gender in the day-to-day, is really not what you want.

And it’s all about semantics. Shared meaning and understanding.

As my last blog, words are everything when communicating. Lewis Carroll plays with this a lot in Alice in Wonderland (and Through the Looking Glass). Here is Humpty Dumpty:

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’

So when we talk about gender (sorry, I do, rather a lot because it’s a conundrum to me too – I had much the same education as you) we fall immediately into what the user of the word means. All words are made up, so the problem arises when different people don’t agree about the meaning or definition of a word, and whether complimentary terms are absolute or relative (eg, black/white versus light/dark). The result is that for me to really mean ‘dark’ I might feel obliged to use the term ‘black’ (or vice versa if I want to be less absolute).

Male and female are the chief cultural terms for gender, and the rest are constructs (andro-gynous; gender-neutral/queer etc.) so it is rather difficult if you are comfortable in the middle (non-binary) but have to fill in forms with M/F. And then you ask why the telecomms company actually needs to know, or the DVLA (are we really all gender-stereotypical drivers?). And then you ask what gender is anyway (covered in earlier posts here). The etymology of the term isn’t helpful, but meaning ‘kind’ (ie, distinguishing men and women) goes back to about the 14th century, but only came to be really useful when the term ‘sex’ started to get embarrassingly common in the 20th century in terms of activity. So it isn’t really very specific.

Who wins, Humpty?

You could be heading for a fall when the egg-heads disagree with little Alice. Is it an academic thing, defined by researchers? Or is it a colloquialism? And oh dear, when you prefix it with ‘trans’ you really stir things up, because what one trans* person claims it for is not the same for another. So the construct of gender is not so much a mental or psychological status as a social consensus on behaviour and presentation.

So back to our little coincidence of events today. How can we decide whether gender dysphoria, that feeling of mismatch between an assigned binary term (absolutist male or female) is a mental disorder, a physical disorder, or simply over-prescription of the need to associate sex-identification (physiological) with gender identification (social – no, not psychological!)? Tricky ground, and one that elsewhere has created very strong feelings. Is there a disorder at all, or is it just that because we don’t accommodate the non-binary or ambiguous or mixed presentation and behaviour, we artificially create a problem that need not exist?

Well, I have met enough different people to think that there are firm clinical and/or genetic roots for real ‘gender dysphoria’ at a profound physiological level – a clear awareness that the body does not fulfill the needs and expression of the psyche in terms of sex-differentiation. But also enough to feel that trans-binarism is not the only answer, and is entirely unsuitable for others. Women behave and dress as men frequently, but we go ape when a man dresses and behaves as a woman (even well, so let’s leave out the bizarre) – this is not, in my mind, a clear case of gender dysphoria, but social and cultural dysfunction. People should be free, but not obliged, to identify as non-binary, and free to live anywhere else in the spectrum they feel most appropriate, and that should be respected.

When someone undertakes the real life experience of their preferred (non-assigned) gender they really are finding out what it would be like to always be ‘the opposite’, and it may not fit well enough. And for others, even full transition with complete surgery is not enough for them to overcome feelings that they were ‘born wrong’. So freedom to identify in a fluid way is the socially mature way to regard gender. And finally, if we can sort out the use of ‘gender’ and ‘transgender’ flexibly enough through not needing to be prescriptive, we need to discard absolutism.

The case of my family member (‘relative’ seems strangely appropriate now), in all likelihood, is seated in religion. God made man and created them male and female. Well, did god create me? So whose fault in quality assurance am I? Old Testament absolutism is so riddled with fallacy that I shan’t discuss it here, except to say that the world’s major religions are founded on peace and love, and those who betray that ideal on spurious interpretations of ancient literature, may have to choose whether or not to shake my hand at the pearly gates as Saint Peter (and god) look on! What if they do, what if they don’t … ?

First Fathers’ Day

  • Posted on June 17, 2012 at 7:58 am
This poem celebrates those who find a way to be both trans* and a parent. It is based on something I heard last year, which was lovely. This year is my first such day, and I hope one day I might read it as my own.

I couldn’t find a card
so I drew this flower instead
and wondered if we should
switch to Mothers’ Day.

No. You’re Dad, this is yours and
I never knew your breasts.
Which I still can’t understand
but I do like your dress.

Shall we go out then?
It’s your day, not any day
and I still love you and nothing
changes me from daughter.

Let’s just remember I’m your girl.
Let’s play Daughter’s Day to celebrate
the one who fathered, nurtured, cared
and loved me into who I am.

That’s what we are.
What we always shall be.
Here, I bought you this necklace.
It’s very pretty, don’t you think?

2012 © Andie Davidson

See also:

Living in the present

  • Posted on April 23, 2012 at 11:57 pm

There is no yesterday: yesterday does not exist.
There is no tomorrow: tomorrow does not exist.
For our yesterdays are merely our interpretations,
and our tomorrows are but our imaginings.

There is only now. There is only this.

This is how I worked it out some time ago. I guess it’s Buddhist at heart. I still believe it’s true. This is the nature of time, of existence, of life. But like you, I fear the future for what it might take away, and grieve the past as past futures – so badly imagined and now so critically interpreted.

And then I sit and meditate, and all my awareness is that I am whole, that I am safe, that I am present. And that unmistakeably, I am woman. And I look around now and I see men of all kinds busy being men, and I think: how could I ever have believed I was really one of those? As I came home today I had a sense of overwhelming gratitude that being a man was not my future, that all my tomorrows are as a woman.

Which all sounds terribly obsessed with gender, and not at all to do with the here and now. In a previous blog I spoke of the plea that ‘I am still here!’, meaning that inside I have not changed, that this now is the same as all my past nows in terms of how I am expressed. Maybe. I struggle for illustrations that make this make sense to other people. It’s like putting glasses on for the first time and realising what normal is supposed to feel like: the same eyes, but seeing clearly, the same you looking out, and everyone else calling you four-eyes. Who? Me?

Something in me is crying out to be loved for who I am, not for what I appear to be, or have appeared to be.

Does my present re-interpret my past, and change it?

I hold out my hand, and say: this is my hand, the same hand, that tells the story of my life, as you – as I – have known it. It has been wondered at, it has been functional, it has known drains and delicacy, it has destroyed and it has created. It has helped and it has healed. It has enacted at all times for me.

And this is my heart, the same heart that first loved, that felt, that feels, that hopes. Unchanged, all its hopes and expressions have been from the same source as they are today. Only today I know that if my heart has gender at all, it is not the heart of a man. In every present moment now past, I should have known, but my interpretation of the past is that I did not know. Un-named, ungendered, this female heart of mine, like my hand, did so much. As the source of so much, it was unquestioned, and was nothing but loved and accepted in return. Every interpretation, every imagining, created a present that was fitting, that was good.

But this heart of mine is now named! I am so completely filled with the joy of that recognition, that my present is alive and lit as never before, despite all the other anxious matters of employment, earning, returning to economic viability, and finding my social place again. But there go my imaginings … Will I be able to find fulfilling work, with the now inherent disadvantages of not just being 55, and female, but trans? Be present! Tomorrow does not exist!

And there go my interpretations too. Have I only been loved because I was living under false pretences? My hand was the hand of a woman?! My heart was a female heart?! If that had been known, would either have had consent? Does my present invalidate all my past, reinterpreting it?

And there goes my present … There is only now – and now, I am a woman in some inappropriate places. What my hand did yesterday it may not do today. All that came from my heart yesterday may be an inappropriate expression of its aspirations for tomorrow.

I am woman. There is only now. Yesterday does not exist. Tomorrow does not exist. There is only this, and in this alone is where all love lies – and where it has only ever lain. I must trust, I must be present. In truth, nothing else actually exists at all.

De facto, defect or, defector?

  • Posted on April 15, 2012 at 12:11 pm

It’s not right.

Is it?

Men are men and women are women and I am . . . well, I thought I was, and now you’re saying . . . what?

Look, maybe it isn’t any harder to handle than a software upgrade. You know, when the drop-down menus, the toolbar choices, the sheer logic of saving files (what type is that? Compatible?) is just a bit unfamiliar, and ‘but surely – I must still be able to to do that!’

This is the week that I am meeting rather a lot of friends and colleagues for the first time not dressed as a man. For me it is perfectly normal, since I’ve been living this way increasingly for over a year, but I do recognise that it will be difficult for some.

‘Do I go and talk to him (woops! her!), or will he/she (I’m getting stuck already!) feel awkward if I do? What do I say?’

‘Actually I think it’s just the person I used to know, dressed up and I don’t understand why, and I feel stupid talking to him like that!’

It is true that I have felt much safer and more embraced through this change by women than by men. Women have immediately offered tips and help, men have praised my courage. And I think I know why. I’m becoming a feminist.

So this post is not for those who have already shown their support (thank you, all) but for those who find the whole thing a bit uncomfortable.

De facto

Because of the way I live, the way my mind, my personality, my heart and soul work, because I have changed my title and my name with legal force, I am a woman. Anything else would be a pretence, and I am, de facto, not a man. I have a deed poll certificate that has allowed me to become ‘Ms’ in almost every aspect of life. It doesn’t entitle me to legally declare my gender as corrected, but as a matter of fact, I am Ms, and that is how, in law, I must be addressed. In fact I am no longer allowed to present myself under my old title or name.

So what can I say? This is how I am; get over it.

Defect, or …

Some people will not easily get over it. Some women will think I am a bit presumptuous aligning myself with them, especially since I still have some significant interventions even to begin. Some men will feel obliged to regard me as a faulty example, a man where something went wrong. In both cases, I understand the challenge: how can it be so easy to suddenly say you are not something that seems to have been blindingly obvious for so long? To have lived in a male body all these years … there must be a serious defect here! Maybe it is a mental disorder that should be put right. Some people think they are Napoleon – or an orange! Or curtains: just pull yourself together!

I am not mentally unwell, my body is healthy, but something has never quite been right. It all makes sense to me at last, and the reason it looks like a defect is that we were all taught, all our lives, that men are men and women are women, and you can tell. Well, can’t you?

Not so. It simply is not as easy or straightforward as that. In the same way that a space probe to Mercury can’t be placed accurately using Newton’s laws of motion, and those GPS satellites we depend on require laws of relativity to speak the truth back at us. Newton was OK for the ordinary stuff, but was too simplistic a view of how things really are. So it is with matters of sex and gender. The only way to know someone’s gender is to ask them.

This is not a defect, it’s just a difference.


And then there are the gender politics. Am I an intruder, as far as women are concerned? To some I certainly am. Why are you in the ladies’ loo?! Well, it’s because I am not a man, and I am not disabled. And I am not a spy either. I am who I am, and I know where I fit easily and best. I do not think about you like a man does.

More to the point, for some men I am a threat. I am a defector from a place of privilege and power, who is undermining the solidarity of the male realm. Goodness! What would happen to male authority if too many people like me started to climb down and join the other side? If that is you, and you need reassurance, I was never on your side, never a part of your tribe, even though I made a decent presentation of it most of the time. I don’t hate men, I just never did man stuff very well and I never liked the idea of male privilege. Some people were most persuaded by my ‘male skills’ – that I was taught in school just because it was a boys’ school.

I am not defecting; I was just never legitimately in the right team. And I’m not taking sides now either. I am just being myself.

Summary for the newly puzzled

I understand that I have changed you without your permission. You are now the person who knows a transsexual, or a transgender person (please just don’t say tranny), and the closer you are the more difficult that may feel. I got over it, so can you.

De facto: this is how I am, so get used to it.

There is no defect or illness about me, and I am happier to be as I am now, than ever before in my life.

I am not a defector from a place I never belonged, so please don’t be afraid that I am an intruder either.