The unquestioned Self: becoming Real

  • Posted on August 15, 2014 at 10:25 am

Everyone says that going through the surgery is a new start. You don’t believe them of course; you nod and smile and think that this is just the final tidying up. It is that, and you may have read me saying that the feeling is at once brilliant and mundane. It does feel very simply and unexcitingly right. There is no thought of what was before, what is after and how wonderful it is. It’s wonderful simply because it’s right. In that sense it’s quite the antithesis of any operation you might have had before, where something threatened, you accepted the risks, and emerged feeling like a delicate flower, vowing to look after your body much better, forever.

I continued over the last few weeks, just enjoying the ordinariness, the completion, the leaving behind of the gender clinic, the life on hold. Visitors said that I look different, and that may be because I’ve been relaxing at home, but I think what is coming through is a new awareness of the unquestioned self. I believe them now, and I’m equally sure this impression will wear off as everyone gets used to it.

The unquestioned self

This blog is a sequel to the last, so makes more sense if you have already read it.

It first came to me when I walked in the park, where I had, in pre-surgery weeks, carefully planned to go for graded recovery exercise. I found I was not only confidently walking, fully relaxed, but aware that no-one could challenge my identity. I didn’t say gender identity – people may look at my face or build and still do that, no I mean that I was finally, totally secure in my Self. No-one could say I was not all I appeared to be, or try to persuade me not to do this, be this, go this way. No-one could say it was not necessary, that I was acceptable as I was, please don’t. No-one could be reassuring about how long I was waiting, knowing that I was unfinished, aware that I was not as I wished to be. I was no longer balancing my intent against opinion, feelings, even expressed squeamishness.

I was also no longer checking myself against ‘what it is to be a woman’, wondering how it would feel after, whether it would be better, not good enough, or just perfect. Or whether I would always feel inadequate for not being born with the right bits. Instead I was feeling unquestioned, because I had arrived where I had dared to journey, and it was right. Believe me, this is truly empowering.

Press Reset

You know that point with your computer where you’ve got important stuff open, and suddenly one of your applications comes up ‘not responding’? What do you do? Risk losing stuff? Wait, as suggested, knowing that you’ll probably be waiting forever, feeling uselessly over-optimistic? Next, you find that closing the application isn’t an option either (OK, you Linux and Apple friends, it never happens to you!). Your only realistic option is to let go the stress, breathe slowly and reach for the Reset button.

And the DVD drawer opens. Damn! Why are the buttons so close on this PC? Back to the question: do you really want the consequences of a reset? Second chance. What if you forget where you were, or how much you’ve lost? Try again?

Pressing Reset does not lead to a dialogue with your PC: ‘Do you really want to do this? Are you sure? Are you really sure?’ Oh, no. It’s you, taking a chance of last resort, do or die, to believe in yourself, head for recovery.

I’ve had many times with computers where I have had to clear down, clean up, rebuild, reinstall, but in the end, the result is a faster, cleaner machine. You realise that a lot of the precious clutter wasn’t that precious at all, and the feelings of dependency were false. And I guess this is a bit of what I felt today. Only better.

I have been hovering over the Reset button too long where it comes to my big lifelong love. Hoping too long that ‘not responding’ would magically go away. Please don’t just remind me that this is what you’ve been saying to me for ages. Maybe you have, but the Reset button is a last resort. It’s a big thing, and I’ve got stuff open. Important stuff, OK?

Wait 30 seconds, then switch back on

The alternative to Reset can be the Power button. The answer to the universe and everything isn’t 42. It’s switch off and on again. Take the power away for a bit, let it drain away, and start again. You do, of course have to get the sequence right, switching things back on in the right order – but everything has discharged and starts afresh. Mistakes will be erased from memory.

In the last week I’ve been in conversation with a number of people over relationships. Much of it was over the impossibility of communicating how much of you as trans is the same as it always was, and what of you created dependencies for previous relationships. No – it isn’t only me that struggles. We all do, because we are the different ones and we understand and explain to each other, in a way that just doesn’t fit most people’s explanations of the world. We know what it means to be yourself, and have somewhat fluid feelings about sex and gender, where some things just don’t matter, because this is our world; we know it. But you don’t. What we have to do, is fit ourselves into what it must feel like not to be trans, and recognise that it is different, understand it, and respect it too.

So there I was, explaining to a young trans man online, that if his boyfriend felt unable to continue the relationship if he wasn’t a girl any more, it required the same kind of respect as them recognising his gender identity. Oh dear. Hypocrisy? 24 hours later a friend, quite unknowing, reminded me that I just had to respect my former wife’s decision. I was fluid, trans, maybe bisexual? And she simply was not in any of those brackets. I had gone on feeling that if only I watched ‘not responding’ long enough, we might resume loving each other. Talking to the machine; willing it to sort itself out. As you do.

And then I woke up. My new unquestioned self was no longer dependent on anyone else to find itself, feel itself, explore itself, as it had always been before. Yes, I want to be loved, and I want to love. I want intimacy, but I want someone who can understand my unquestioned self, who doesn’t need it explaining, who doesn’t find it – or my body – uncomfortable. I don’t want to be loved by persuasion. Of course what this means is it may not happen at all, and if it does, it’s that long haul of shared discovery, filling in all the previous years and lives, that used to just mean your teens, but now embraces a long and complex path without any of the familiarity my wife and I had built up over the years.


Maybe it was just my ego, that I was baffled by a strong relationship of over 30 years being so dispensable. Maybe I had felt a stronger or leading partner? Had I always assumed to be followed? Why had my job taken precedence? Just because I earned more? Had we been as equal as I had thought? I love the Iris Murdoch quote about love and the other as real. Yes, it is difficult – and I probably was nowhere near that either.

I have spent the last two years trying to explain myself, so that it becomes obvious that not loving me still, makes no sense. Well, not to me. And that’s the point. Too many of my emails (essays), text messages, conversations have been, in effect, coercive. Why does she not feel guilty about abandoning me? Surely she must, after so long together? If only she could see I am still here. But love either is, or it is not, and however distraught I have felt, it is not for me to tell anyone at all that they should love me. And my grief is simply my grief, not someone else’s. Love has departed, and my new unquestioned self was beginning to say to me that it was time to press Reset, or power down and start again, in terms of my former life partner. Because she too is real (see my previous blog, Reject, abandon, release).

We managed to throw everything away that we had built up. Financially and emotionally it was a complete train wreck. Without the ties of romantic love, it was derailed. So the question raised itself: what do we really want of each other, if anything, now? I have annoyed the hell out of her by my loaded words, this unconscious coercion. And I have only just realised that we need to start from scratch, absolute equality and neutrality, and see whether our life together has any value in the context of a unique friendship. That is a challenge for me, because I still love her, and I have to see that as a recognition of her equal reality. This is not my agenda, it is a clean sheet. My old dependence on her closeness to give me femaleness-by-proxy has gone. I have, unexpectedly, a new unquestioned self.

Reset isn’t good enough. Power down. Wait, switch on, and see what happens when the programs run. Perhaps they will be obsolete. Maybe there will be updates to run through. Maybe it’s the wrong operating system for the future. Maybe it is just a new experience, free from romance, since that is not possible – if I can live with that.

I guess what I’m trying to say with a bit of humility is that loving her still, cannot be a protest. It is not my job to make anything work. Between us we may find common ground, or we may not. It depends on how much we can see each other as Real. I should let her lead for a change. Tough call, but I can see it at last.

What was that? Told you so? Hey, we all have to learn for ourselves; I’m just thankful I’m still learning, not stuck.


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