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No single story

  • Posted on August 16, 2015 at 12:23 pm

One year ago I wrote a piece about meeting a glamour photographer whilst still in the hospital where my clinical transition was completed. It was one of those strange things that life turns up from time to time, reminding you of the connectedness of all things. I have often written about my sense of greater belonging in the world, or rather belonging among all things, so I shouldn’t be surprised any more. But these completing meetings that reattach parts of life are good. Two years ago I returned to my teenage haunts in Derbyshire, deliberately to reconnect old and new. But still there are moments where I have cause to remember and reconnect my past without having to deny it, but rather be grateful for greater understanding. Without the past my story is incomplete, and sometimes now I have to be careful not to erase parts of it to avoid awkward questions. I have children: where are they? How was childbirth for you? You played with Meccano? Sorry – a boy’s grammar school? And do I say my son lives with my ex, or with his mother? And so on. I have a past, not just a present. There was no single point of separation from it.

This week I Facebook-friended a very familiar face, that of Caroline Cossey. It was a huge surprise for several reasons. Firstly that we are of very similar age, secondly that we (for all her fame) find ourselves on a level in this social space, and understand many shared experiences. Most of all, that for all the differences in our life stories, we have something, in the end, very much in common. I remember her modelling name of Tula. I had the Mayfair and Playboy issues (quite coincidentally, because I really didn’t buy that many!) that featured her (glamour, not porn in those days). I had a ‘respectable’ book too, of glamour photos that featured her. And I remember the front cover exposure of this incredibly beautiful woman who ‘used to be man’. At the time I simply stared in disbelief, and could not connect it with any possibility for myself. A wish; no more. I simply didn’t really understand how it could be possible, and saw it only as a choice. Caroline represented something unattainable, part of another world. Only twenty years later did I see the TV interviews she did, after being outed by the media. She was a victim, she was also a heroine, and I am here now in part due to all she went through and fought for.

Today, finally, I downloaded her book to my Kindle. 1992: My Story. Her story. History. Not my story, but many places where the stitches are familiar. The familiarity all starts with a very early childhood sense of not belonging. Of the world being a confusing place with nowhere to go, and of feeling there is no-one you can explain this to, no-one who will understand and make it all make sense.

That’s it. Not belonging. Something really not right about the way people tell you you should be, or feel, or behave, or dress, or play, or simply be …

Now imagine telling that story to people. They will tell you how they don’t feel they belong either: maybe they don’t play sports too well, or are very mediocre at music, bad at drawing, middle to bottom of the class academically, or simply introvert and never had many friends or anyone they felt understood them. So what is it, in the stories we tell as trans people, that is different? Yes, stories, because they are in many ways similar and many more ways individual. Telling the story, nevertheless is critical to accessing routes to change. Not all routes involve treatment. Not everyone wants hormones, let alone surgery. Many of us find some comfort in there being a diagnosis, by whatever name (but dislike the names anyway), because it is confirming to know that you aren’t alone. But what everyone must do, whose gender is not what others tell them it is, is tell their own story. I often wondered how easy it would be to learn the narrative that gets you through a gender clinic. I also know many who have been honest about being gender queer and who seek part-treatments, and who have found it very difficult to obtain it.

I walked around the playground in my first year of school, with a girl. I remember Jane Pringle very clearly as someone I trusted, as all the other boys competed on the climbing frame and shouted together. I felt she was someone like me, and that the boys were not. But that didn’t make me trans.

I talked in my first year of transition with people who hated their bodies, some who either could not look at themselves in a mirror, or feel comfortable to even touch their genitals. This was not my story. My sense of being in the wrong body was that I hated my impulses. I hated that if I put a dress on it didn’t make me look like a girl, even if it felt good inside. I looked at photos taken by Joanie Allum and I liked that a woman was glamourising women. I looked at pictures of Tula and found her dignified and beautiful. But I wasn’t spending my days hating my penis. As my life began expanding with the growing up of children, I learned to express myself in drawing, painting, writing and music. A lesbian friend reminded me that I could be desirable and made me feel more alive, after which I walked in sunlit woods at lunchtime from work, and imagined how wonderful it would be to be wearing a dress every summer day.

I really wished I could feel comfortable and find myself, but the more I tried to introduce the feminine desires I felt, the more I found resistance in my marriage. I was the only one who wanted this, and if I was going to do that, I was going to have to do it alone. And if I was going to do it at all completely, I was going to have to tell the story of my Gender Dysphoria. I was going to have to admit to some kind of disorder, a significant impairment, a medical diagnosis. I felt that I was having to reduce myself rather than grow more complete, drop any idea of my social status, of my achievements, almost to the point of being labelled as a freak. I was going to have to enter a bureaucratic sequence that ended in much of my documented history being sequestered away for my own protection. I was going to have to go through therapy, counselling, psychiatric assessment and examination, judgement and evaluation by people who knew nothing about me other than the story I would tell.

For many of us, there is some pressure to get the story ‘right’. People ask this on Facebook: I’m going to the gender clinic next week, what should I say to ‘get through’? Sometimes it feels that my individual story is not enough to convince the gatekeepers who are just looking for the right identity pass card. We should all be able to be honest enough and to tell many stories.

And the story we tell those closest to us? The one story, the classic story of being ‘born in the wrong body’? This can make us into liars and deceivers (Why didn’t you tell me?) rather than confused and unable to know. And if it isn’t the wrong body, why are you making such a big deal out of it? In 1992 Caroline Cossey described it as being ‘born between two sexes’. This is not the same as intersex conditions, which are (perhaps) more easily described through physical examination. Differences in physiological sexual development do not make life easier (it can be harder), and there is some evidence that many transsexual people may also have physiological determinants of their sense of gender, but which a clinician cannot prod and say ‘ah, yes’ to. For all of us, something biological happened in our initial development, for which there was no erratum in any Your New Baby manual.

And so we end up trying to tell our own stories, to people who would like it to be one simple story. We risk being disbelieved, being told that we simply don’t understand ourselves, or the way things are. Society doesn’t want us to have stories that don’t fit the way things are supposed to be. Either we are confused and keep silent and anonymous, or speak our stories and everyone else gets confused. There has to be a better way.

I don’t have gender dysphoria. I used to, in the sense that I described my non-belonging in the world, my self-understanding and my need to change, as being perceived as male whilst feeling more naturally female. The changes I made put it all right, so whatever you call the diagnosis, my gender, as I now show and live and express it, is correct. Had those changes not required clinical intervention, I may never have included the label in my story. But my own complete story is one of development, from confused little boy all the way through to happy woman.

My story, your story, Caroline’s story, every famous trans woman and pioneer’s story, and every anonymous trans man and woman’s story, is singular. But what we are all saying is that no-one can write or narrate our stories for us, let alone make it all the same story.

Going quietly

  • Posted on June 2, 2015 at 8:19 pm

I missed three weeks writing this blog. Just being in other places, or too busy with life really. And not having sufficient reason to write something meaningful. In the meantime I’ve been nursing a sprained ankle back to strength, clearing out a lot of clutter and being more creative about space with and for my partner. I’m liking the whole idea of restarting shared life and not being the only one to make decisions about home-making. In fact I’m liking it so much, that all that happened last year is seeming like a very long time ago indeed.

Doing this as a grown adult rather than a twenties person is quite different. We know much more what to do, and why. We can make decisions, even think slightly radical thoughts about use of space and things owned too long. We can do things we’ve done before, and things we haven’t tried yet. It’s up to us. I like this freedom, to disagree, consider, agree, act. Freedom; a few years ago I was looking for freedom to be myself by changing, and at the time a lot of what I ended up being freed from felt a lot like other people’s decisions.

Freedom is a funny old thing, that we all want, and then find one person’s freedom restricts another’s. We then get tangled in words like ‘compromise’ and ‘expectations’. Our recent UK elections gave us a sense of pride in political freedom, to vote for whoever we liked. It’s a free country. Except that two-thirds of us who are entitled to vote did not get a representative government at all. I still regularly see social media posts from people who don’t feel free to be themselves, or, if they want to express themselves, realise that being free in one way means being rejected in another, bringing instead, restrictions.

I’m free now from a whole load of things I carried all my life. I’m even free of the system that enabled me to become finally free. And yet my obligations include a job too far from home, not exactly doing what I love, and not as rewarding as I’d like. I want to be free to learn something new and use it to benefit other people, not just earn money. In this respect I am not free. Earning is an obligation that cannot be paused. Hey ho. The answer, again, is for me to work out for myself, to do what matters most to me. I think I am in another kind of transition phase, from disruption back into gradual change, and getting used to walking instead of running obstacle courses. I’m walking, quietly.

It might seem I am walking away from some things. Where am I on Facebook, or Twitter? Very quiet. Meeting less frequently with other trans* people, and contributing less to online conversations, or even trans*-related blogging. I am even thinking about letting this blog drift off into poetry, and writing about writing instead. Why not? In some ways I really am going quietly, slipping back into a steady life, where I am happily loving and living and making a new social life. I don’t need to say anything much any more; my learning is different. I was invited last week to read my poetry at a local literary gathering in Brighton, and chose a set that had really nothing much to do with my recent transition. The theme was ‘place and permission’, reflecting on various things, from clearing a deceased relative’s house to observing life as a flat-dweller, to places with memories that stay with you, where you can’t really ever go again.

Did I go quietly, when I left my comfortable existence? No; not really. I was angry and noisy and preserving my dignity all at the same time. But I have gained a sense of belonging, to places and to people, that are some new, some just changed. This is still happening, so the poetry evening was followed the next day by a trip with a band I play with, for an extended weekend of outdoor concerts in Kent. It’s something I’ve often done, but this time I was going with my partner, for who it was a new and unknown experience. It was lovely, really lovely (apart from the weather not being as warm and quiet as it might). And of course we were a couple. Just quietly there with people I’ve known for ten years, but as the only trans* person in the band and now as the only lesbian couple too. It’s very reassuring to be accepted with question or explanation.

Apart from the ff parts, and sitting right in front of the timpani, it all went quietly.

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

Changing rooms

  • Posted on April 3, 2015 at 1:01 pm

I didn’t write last week; for the first time I missed. I had things that I wanted to fill my time instead, but in a way I feel I betrayed the blog itself rather than my readership. Hey, we all have time off. And times are changing, and it’s all about making room right now. Do I always want to write about being trans*? Actually, no. I don’t want to be invisible by any means, but I have said much of what there is to say for a while. I’m not an advisor, nor an expert, just experienced in transition. I feel very keenly for friends (local and via social media) whose journey is protracted and are still waiting for treatment. I feel the injustice of years of judgement before self-knowledge is acknowledged, and I follow all the debates about responsibility in being openly trans for the sake of all those who cannot avoid visibility. The world is still very far from accepting of trans existence as an equal status being human. But I am now nine months on from my final and very successful treatment, and observing what it means to remain different but to inhabit very much the same old world.

So what was I doing last week, to spend blogging hours differently? Actually, I was doing a 50 shades of grey 1,000 piece jigsaw. Sorry; much less intriguing really, it was a mainly monochrome scene in London, manufactured in Germany, which my partner received from her mother for Christmas, not an erotic experience! Jigsaws have great potential as well as being addictive, because they challenge pattern recognition, involve strategies, and create space for neutral conversation abstracted from the obsessions of working life. It was fun, and reminded me of happy times with my mother, when we were the only two interested in doing the Christmas jigsaw.

They are a great destressor too, because they require such concentrated attention, and both of us have had our recent stresses over work (she has too much to achieve and I have much too little), as well as thinking ahead to our future. Before too long we are planning to share our living space, rather than living in two places and alternately out of bags on each other’s bedroom floors. Life is a game of consequences, and we face more than some. My partner may hold admiration for the way I’ve travelled these past few years, but that doesn’t mean having a partner of different nationality, same gender, transsexual and considerably older is an easy thing to land on family, friends and colleagues! I am very aware that I am not an altogether simple addition to her life, and that we come to a place of increasing commitment from very different directions. We may fit very comfortably well and share far more in common than we could have expected but, as everyone, we gaze into the more distant future, where some certainties exist, a few challenges, many questions, and the choice of grasping opportunities while we can. It is a very different situation from the one I faced when I got married, young, inexperienced, naïve and very afraid of being discovered. I won’t try to speak for my partner, but what we have now is probably far from her expectations. And being unanticipated, not everything we think, or need to make our minds up on, lies on prepared ground.

We want to expand socially together, get to know each other’s circles, and I know that I have disappeared pretty much online in recent times. Social media was my lifeline for years, it was where I discovered I was not perverted but simply transgender, and found support and advice to set my life straight for the first time. I have needed to move away from social media again, and now to find a good role for it rather than an obsessive one. I think that together we can find new activities and social groups, gain confidence in making new friends, and make the most of the relationship we have. I find it exciting to know that life can continue to change and bring new experiences, and my motto remains ‘Warum nicht? Why not?’.

As we start thinking seriously about what it means to share a home, we turn to our things and where they will fit. For me, life is not what I have accumulated, it is what I can create and recreate every day. My things are just my things. Some have captured memories, some inspire, but many are just the skin I constantly need to shed, in order to grow. Some are simply useful, such as rather too many practical home maintenance spares and tools!

I am very aware that leaving my old life was not a denial of anything good I achieved, but a necessary separation nonetheless. Despite keeping the toolboxes, I had no trousers for years, I chose more overtly feminine things in order to create contrast, and I created a safe space where my intentions were obvious, and ambiguity or ambivalence were excluded. I bought many things cheaply because I was replacing so much at once. I did well, but it’s time to share the making of home again. I feel safe, with a very trusting relationship, and a security in my own skin that still delights me. My things, my rooms, can now belong to this, rather than define it. Maybe a better analogy is that I built scaffolding to support my transition years, and now I feel properly restructured and strong, the scaffolding can come down.

I’m sorry if you Googled this page based on trans* spaces, bathroom bills, and changing-rooms for trans women. I only meant to say that my living space is set to change again, for the better, and that I’m looking forward to it all over again. I have transitioned; I have moved over; and change remains a welcome thing because it is once more being led by love.

(And no stupid analogies about piecing my life back together again from a thousand scattered pieces!)

A return to ‘acceptably different’

  • Posted on March 21, 2015 at 11:01 pm

Back in August 2012 I wrote about being ‘acceptably different’, by which I meant recognising that at the time I was still quite visibly in transition, and that it was best to go with the flow, knowing that there was no hiding my ambiguity. A lot has happened since then, and in reality I have very little reference from day to day with my ‘trans history’. It isn’t that can forget it, or that I avoid it. It just happens a lot less these days.

A few days ago a colleague at work called in to say they would be late, and I was there early enough to be the one to take their call. They didn’t recognise my voice, probably thinking that I was one of the several male Andys. My voice without my face, I expect, sounds anomalous. It’s confusing.

I sometimes ask my partner (whom I trust to be honest) what my most obvious giveaways are. It seems love blinds one to these things though; it’s me, not my face or my almost absent waist, that matters. And yet I know, even though it really doesn’t matter, that she will always be able to ‘see the man in me’ because it’s there. A puberty and a life fed by testosterone inevitably does that to you, and nothing will change it. Together we can be honest about this. And it doesn’t matter. And yet to one of her friends, it (and/or our lesbian relationship) does, and she has had to decide whether to stand with me, where my trans history/status is not welcome, or ignore this and go to an event without me. I know that I/we carry the stigma wherever the stigma exists in another person’s mind.

Out walking one lunchtime this week with two female colleagues, we were talking about marriage, friendships and relationships, and how we all change, and have to accept that relationships of all kinds don’t always last well as a result. Co-dependency, possessiveness, restricting each other’s natural growth and development, are not good for us. ‘I’m not the girl I was at twenty!’, said my colleague. ‘Nor am I’, I replied spontaneously. And we all burst out laughing helplessly …

My partner and I sat together today to sort a financial matter out with a bank. Being divorced, I guess they had to be sure my credit rating could be verified, so one question was: ‘Have you ever been known by any other name?’ I declined to answer (is that suspicious?) because to do so would reveal more than a name, and that matter is now entirely and legally confidential. But I wondered: did the nice young man understand because he could see that I was a rather unusual-looking woman, and being in a cosmopolitan city, guessed my history? If he did, it didn’t matter.

So on the whole, nearly three years on, I find myself almost universally accepted. My voice hasn’t improved (I have probably gotten lazy), but I hardly ever talk about transition any more. My past is there, which can’t be avoided, but it is my past. It is not me now. So much so that as I browsed old photos with my partner this week, I realised that my only connection with my childhood in my mind, is to think of how I was as a little girl.

I have changed a great deal, even in the last two years, physically, mentally, psychologically and socially, but some things will always give me away, through appearance, habit, manner or simply the knowledge of how I used to live. And people still have to decide: am I acceptable. Thankfully, for almost everyone, I am. But the acceptance is as a different kind of person. And so I still check in with myself as to whether I am disappointed not to be completely and exclusively perceived to be a ‘normal woman’ – because I am not, and I cannot be.

On the whole, I am not. If I was in my twenties, I might be, but at least my face would be in a better shape and my body more youthful. However, I am aware that for many trans women appearance can be a burden. Confidence carries you a long way, appropriate dressing is very important as part of realistic expectations, and personal acceptance to save undermining yourself, essential. It’s all very well to talk about being acceptably different to other people, but accepting one’s own difference with good grace takes more than a brave face. If someone else looks at you and you can tell that they know straightaway that you are trans, you can say ‘well, that’s their problem, not mine’. But if, after as complete treatment as you can get or afford, you still look at yourself in the mirror and feel wrong, you’d better find a way of coping and understanding yourself.

In a therapy session before I had to walk away from my marriage, one of the counselors remarked that some trans women can’t cope after complete transition because they feel they can never be as ‘good’ as they expected or wanted to be. I already knew that wouldn’t be my problem, but I think now I would be less overall dismissive. So once again, if I have anything to say to people beginning or in transition, it would be that you have to dig very deep in your preparation for change, taking your imagination to the worse possible outcomes to test your fears. But also dig deep to test your reaction to the best possible outcomes. You really don’t know before those final steps quite how it’s going (honestly, truthfully) to feel. You can kid yourself that it’s everything you want, and you can equally kid yourself that you can manage without it. When reminded that surgical outcomes can be less than optimal, believe it could be you and test your resilience. But also, prepare yourself for the best of outcomes, and get to know your body beyond past experiences, believing that it can be acceptable, to a future partner and to yourself.

I know a number of people for whom surgery was less than optimal, just as I know those for whom everything was good. I know that I was lucky, but I don’t want to speak from that as if it is the only outcome. I only want to say that I was very well prepared mentally, psychologically and physically, and that it paid off. To my partner, my body is perfectly acceptable, responds surprisingly well, and we are very happy together. To me, I am relieved – that I do not have to worry about being imperfect or, if ‘the man’ remnant still in me is visible, that it actually doesn’t matter at all. But I believe that I came through so easily only because I’d already explored the dark corners.

In sum, ‘acceptably different’ has gained two sides: dealing with people who know my past, and dealing with myself who has that past. The first can’t just be dismissed because there will always be the tripping moments (like those above). The second is vital, and must not be ignored. I hear too many people losing self-belief during transition, feeling defeated by the things they cannot change. If you have gender dysphoria, you have to accept your difference is something to live with – even after transition. The dysphoria goes, but the world doesn’t change. In a word: prepare. Prepare very well.