You are currently browsing all posts tagged with 'gender dysphoria'.
Displaying 1 - 2 of 2 entries.


  • Posted on June 29, 2014 at 2:40 pm

The trouble with being a writer is that sometimes you just have to write. When I began this blog I wrote twice a week, and as the weeks close on my gender dysphoria, my mind is filling again.

‘Uncoupling’ has featured in three key ways over these past years. Firstly, it was uncoupling from an accustomed life, presumed male, involving work, family, relationships, activism, social activities and so on. Secondly, there was uncoupling from all the love in my life, as my family and marriage disintegrated and I was no longer wanted. This was accompanied by having to leave behind everything I had accrued, socially and materially and emotionally.

This time, the uncoupling is from the gender dysphoria itself, and this is no small thing. I wrote recently of it as emerging from a long tunnel into daylight, realising nothing was following or chasing, and nothing threatening ahead, just open air.

This weekend has been once more profound. Starting (again) in my dance group, I felt such welcome, acceptance, and dare I say it, love, that I left in a mist of sheer gratitude. I had asked the whole group, that if any felt so minded, I would welcome anyone to track me down and call by during my coming absence from the dance. I do believe they would even stretcher me there simply to lie in the midst of the dance if necessary! But I shall be very sensible … And I know some will call round, and it will be lovely.

Some understand why I shall be away, and I do mean understand: that this is a fundamental and life-affirming thing for me, and that it will finally change important parts of my psyche. Some, not knowing the reason, have been afraid that perhaps I am fighting cancer, and I can only reassure this is not life-threatening, but something I have waited a long time for.

So as I face this uncoupling from my gender dysphoria, I have a small dilemma: to tell one who does not know, why I shall be away, places me in the category of transsexual (‘used to be a man’), where I do not want to be. Even this blog blows my cover, if that is what I aspire to. Uncoupling is not denial, though. It is just that this step is a very final and transforming one. It was my decision to ask for it and to go through with it, and is solely my responsibility.

Why this matters

I had imagined that everything would be smooth and gradual, a daily ‘getting there’. Then last week, I told of realising my body had changed more than I’d noticed. The summer clothes from last year and before just don’t fit as well. Red is a colour I can wear with confidence. I checked my bra size today. You know, I last did this properly when I didn’t have boobs, and had to buy some! I got the smallest cup size bra I could, and silicone fillers to fit that. When I didn’t need them any more, I simply went for the smallest cup size I could find online (40A isn’t in the shops much!) and it was OK. But today I am 38B, and that just feels more normal. And I tucked a favourite skirt waistband in a bit too.

It does just feel like getting more normal again. I don’t mean to say that being transsexual is not normal (other than in the statistical sense of average), but that I am a woman in a very normal way.

Last night I was chatting to a number of women musicians from Australia about bands, and countries, and travel and all the things we have in common. A year ago I would have been wary about being noticeably ‘different’, but nowadays it is only in reflection that being anything other than normal enters my mind. Being trans is a state of being I am leaving behind, and others are forgetting it too. This is good.

After the coming-to-terms and acknowledging the fear of surgery itself, a few weeks ago, things have changed. There is so much to prepare for, so that my return home is as straightforward as possible. Some will go against the grain out of sheer practicality, including ready-meals and a microwave oven, but only for a while. Right now, under the duress of zero hormones, I could be feeling down. My body and facial hair are unrestrained by oestrogen, and it annoys me! My moods may yet change and I may become irritable. I do know already that I shall be glad to be back on the pills.

Instead, I feel excited. I really, really want this, and I am almost there. I feel full of energy, and above all, incredibly empowered. That’s right, I, a transsexual woman who has come through serial psychiatric assessment and intervention, to live in a world where both women and transsexual people can be disadvantaged, having lost everything that meant most to me, without lasting financial security, and with no loving relationship, feel empowered. Remind me, as I struggle through the first month of recovery: I am strong.

And so I am expecting further change in the next six months, as I grasp this final uncoupling, this last big thing that has been holding me back.

I have met with my former wife a couple of times recently, so uncoupling still has a ring there too. I know I feel no differently about her than I ever did. I also know that there is no echo. This has all been too strange, and it is not something she ever has to come to terms with. I am still here, all of me, though released. It is unexpected; I look different, I ask directions, I call the waitress over; I am a woman. But not loved. Uncoupled.

Gender dysphoria is not a behaviour

  • Posted on March 22, 2014 at 8:07 am

I got drawn this week into another of those dialogues about the legitimacy of the transgendered identity. The comparison as so often was between being gay/lesbian (i.e. sexuality) and gender dysphoria, where the former finds agreement between body and mind (identity), but a disagrement with social tradition or culture, and the latter finds a disagreement between body and mind (identity) as well as with culture and society. It’s tough, because if you are trans*, the chances are you also have a sexuality that is questioned by society, including the gay/lesbian part of it.

It’s like being trans* gets you shut out of almost every kind of accepted normality, where anyone except yourself can decide what your legitimate identity is allowed to be. As if society is afraid of your behaviour, perhaps thinking you are unpredictable or potentially predatory. Sometimes I have been treated as intrusive simply for being; there can be a lot of exclusion for being trans*. The worst kind is trans erasure, where certain groups define us out of existence, saying in effect that what we are is only in our minds.

Believe me, there is nothing about being transsexual that is behavioural. In fact, being transsexual need not involve you doing anything at all. It is only about being. Part of the problem is that the trans-spectrum people who are most visible are either the most flamboyant (deliberate) or the most physically disadvantaged (unfortunate). I don’t get noticed anymore, but knowing what I am gets me associated with stereotypical ideas of what I do (or salacious imaginings of what I might do).

There are people who knew me before transition, and who, two years later, still find it hard to stop thinking of me as I used to present. Everything is still a reference to how I used to be to them, which leaves me with the distinct feeling that they can only regard this as a chosen lifestyle. In other words, that this is behavioural, and therefore subject to judgement as to its rationale or authenticity.

What does it take?

I wrote a poem last year about an innocent prisoner being discharged, based on the feelings of what it must be like to be the only person in the courtroom who actually knows the truth. No-one else does, though they have the power to imprison or release. If you know you are innocent, should you be grateful for acquittal by people who were not there, who have made judgements based on external and partial evidence?

Sometimes being transsexual feels like that: others get together to make judgements on the validity of your claim to authenticity, whereas only you can actually know this. Even trans* people make judgements about each other on ‘degrees of transness’, perhaps as self-protection for their own sense of identity, or out of insecurity.

The closest you can get to another is by communicating through some intermediary language, verbal or not, that you hope is shared. In the end you are isolated and insulated, and love is a reflexive verb.

This is where you come to understand, if you haven’t before, just how completely lonely the human spirit really is. No other can climb inside yourself and share your experience. You can become aware of resonance with another, but you know that when they choose to go away from you, they take nothing and leave nothing but thoughts. The closest you can get to another is by communicating through some intermediary language, verbal or not, that you hope is shared. In the end you are isolated and insulated, and love is a reflexive verb.

Oh no, not the trans lobby again!

If there is one thing that those who like to discuss trans legitimacy don’t like, it is the ‘trans lobby’ – people who stand up and object every time to this discussion. How improper! These discussants feel they have more right to say whether transgendered people are real, than transgendered people themselves. Well, I guess if you think we aren’t real, then we have no right. But why are we not real? Because our discussants have only one traditional concept of gender? And if there is one sure way to create a trans lobby, it must surely be to declare that a trans woman is ‘really’ a man, or a trans woman is ‘really’ a woman. Or indeed, that neither are either.

I find it interesting to try to understand where our eager or insistent discussants place those with intersex conditions. Bodies can be very ambiguous, and more than we like to believe, are. Genital/reproductive abnormalities may be as high at 1 in 100, and real ambiguity as high as 1 in 2,000. What, without question, defines a woman or a man, since our discussants seem so clear? It certainly isn’t a complete and clear possession of all the sexual markers, whether organs or chromosomes. XY, with androgen insensitivity, for example?

With such crass disregard for the reality of human physiology, chromosomal, reproductive or sexual, it is hardly surprising that there seems to be a trans lobby that jumps to defence. So I was very cautious about entering this week’s conversation, lest I too be labelled a lobbyist.

Society creates disorders

Part of the discussion we trans folk are presented with, is: what if society were so accepting of transgendered identities that we would not even consider surgical reparation or correction? It is a fair question, because any parent of an intersex baby will want to know what to do. Intervene, in order to avoid the dreadful uncertainty of growing up without definition? Or risk surgically defining the baby in a way that proves to be wrong? Maybe we, as a society, can get over this one by being simply honest about physiological birth differences. But what about transsexuals? Is this just a different case of intersex? Can I imagine a society that is accepting enough for me to say I really have no need of intervention, hormonal or surgical? For some of us, I really do believe that dysphoria has no other origin than our innate sense of being. For others, not – but for me, I know the sense of not being ‘right’ has not been planted by nurture or social interaction. Who would go through the social trauma and physical struggles, if there were an alternative? Is it just that society is so unkind to us, and so unaccepting?

Here is a parallel that I keep coming back to: what if society were so accepting of, say, a deformed limb that could, through surgery, be straightened?

The same social argument would apply: ‘surely there is no real need for corrective surgery or treatment; there’s nothing wrong with a limp or the inability to run.’ Well, it’s fine for the one without the deformity, but highly presumptive that the other might not genuinely prefer to be able to run.

Much of the time, our discussants on our legitimacy are gay or lesbian, who have seen a revolution in the UK over acceptability of their sexuality as innate. Look what they went through in the past, and look how society is now! Surely we can just calm down and be different, like they are? And here is the difference between LGB and TQI: we don’t want to be different. We feel our normality is there, in the gender we feel ourselves to be. Most of us don’t want some halfway house, some different, either hated or exalted status. We know we can’t alter the way we were born, but we can do our best to put things right and leave it behind. LGB people don’t do that; they live it. LGB people need each other for intimate relationships. Transsexual people do not. If we have any togetherness, it is only because we’re better at understanding each other.

So I don’t believe that I have a cultural disorder. Something congenital and off the normal distribution mean, yes, but more than a matter of social convention. My ‘condition’ hasn’t been created any more than the case of the deformed limb. So when I read non-trans people questioning my validity, I find it somewhat arrogant. It isn’t for anyone else to decide another’s legitimate identity. Perhaps there is an enormous clue in people born with intersex conditions. No observer can say what their gender is, only they themselves. They may naturally feel strongly that they have a binary identity, or indeed none. We all have this. You can lose all your physiological markers through illness, disease, accident, surgery, and still you would know what your felt gender is. That’s what it feels like for me.

Gender is indeed intriguing and fascinating, and I know what gender I am not. But to imagine that my identity is up for debate without knowing this from the inside, is a tad presumptive. And remember, always, especially if you are gay or lesbian: sexuality is not like gender.