Sun Sep 2nd, 2007 at 06:27:55 AM EST
Once our own dear Poemless wrote "Maybe it is that I have always felt a stranger in my own country. "How the hell did I end up here?!" "What the fuck are these people thinking?!" "I cannot possibly belong here." That resonated with me as I too have had these thoughts all my life in some form or other; after all Helen is not my birth name and I was not born a girl.
And so the number one question I guess most people want to ask when you say you're transgendered is, "How do you know ?". Julie Bindel, anti-trans "feminist" asked much the same thing in her recent tirade, citing her own non-transgendered questioning of her identity as a teenager coming into conflict with the then suffocating restrictions on female expression. From her, it was merely an Aunt Sally statement, intended to undermine real transgendered people's expressions, but that doesn't stop it being a good question.
From the diaries ~ whataboutbob
Maybe a little personal history : I was just 18 months old when I first realised. Oh, I know that you're not supposed to remember anything from that age and, it's true, mostly I don't. But I remember two things from that moment, the reality of that realisation and the equally firm knowledge that I should never allow anyone to know. From there on I set a standard of denial that was to last nearly 40 years, burying deep anything that might allow anyone to suspect. When you're a child, this has relatively little consequence, aside from denying myself anything that could be mistaken for an enthusaism for things girlish.
Yet with two elder sisters, you'd be surprised all the odd things that could come to be untouchable. I look back on these things and sigh about what might have been, but 'tis water long gone to sea. Of course, I was vaguely aware that there were other ways to be but, by and large, I was only wistfully aware of those things that I could not be. Just vaguely jealousy of the girls I met, but in an entirely unfocussed way.
However, everything changes when puberty hits, the contradiction between the life you have to lead and the life you want to lead begins to become unbearable. Firstly, there are the disappointments as you realise that your body is inexorably, inevitably turning into that of a man. The voice breaks, your proportions change. The little hope that nature's error might be miraculously rectified that you never even realised you'd nurtured flickers and dies to leave an ache that never really goes.
And what is worse is that that ache becomes physical. Gender identity is located right in the amygdala, the most primitive part of the brain. If anybody had ever asked me the one part where feeling the "wrong" gender hurt, I would have unhesitatingly pointed to the very spot in my brain where the amygdala resides.
Until puberty, the angst was distant and vague. But once male hormones flowed in earnest, it was like being poisoned. Not a sharp pain, just an overwhelming sense of wrongness, drip-dripping inside my head all the time; like chinese water torture slowly driving me mad. Sometimes I could ignore it, at other times it was the only thing of which I was aware. You can hope it goes away, occasionally convince yourself that it has, but it never does.
It messes with your head, especially the jealousy. Jealousy so powerful it hurts, where you can hate women for having what you don't, asking how they got so lucky. "Have I offended somebody ?" "To whom might I appeal". Truly, this way lies madness. I don't know how I dodged the bullet, or even if I did to a greater extent, although maybe my essay on Zar, Trance & Heavy Rock maybe an answer. I sometimes still see that mania in myself and know there is at least a shadow somewhere. And I have seen others in the transgendered community much less lucky; personalities utterly shattered by the experience
And what is this distress ? I really can't answer that except to say that it isn't amenable to rationality, gender identity isn't a conscious state, it cannot be counselled, neither is it an emotion. It's located below instinct, it's not how or what you do, it's just you. Or in my case, not_you.
So when people ask "how does it feel ?" and "how do you know ?" it's hard to know how to respond as the above is too detailed whilst saying that "it hurt in a way you can never understand" doesn't help much.
And how does it affect your character ? Simone de Beauvoir described that you are born female, but become a woman. Which is to say that culture gifts or denies you the means to express your inner potentials. Ordinarily this is not too bad, but for me conforming to cultural expections felt like going against the grain of some innate personality. I just didn't seem in some instances to have the proper reflexes and had to learn to fake them. Equally, I could see girls of my age slowly having revealed to them those opportunities that I craved, but knew could never happen to me.
So, I grew up into a man with all the cultural paraphenalia thrown in. I can't say it was fun, but aside from a sort of background ache it wasn't awful. I was well integrated after a fashion, a scruffy pub-dog who was valued by my peers as a reliable beer hound.
As an aside practically the only thing most transgendered men acknowledge they have in common is a general indifference to their appearance as men. I had no investment in myself as a man, so I was always just a little unkempt. Apparently a lot of us are like that.
But you can't stop yourself dreaming, always waiting for permission to start living. Oh, it comes and goes, but is always there in the background, drip, drip, drip; and so there came a point where I got sick of resisting. For me it was at the age of 38. I started getting into the transvestite scene, although only slightly as I was always uncomfortable with the fetishistic side of things.
Eventually I got to the point where I realised that I didn't want to die not knowing what it was like to be female. So, having decided that one day I would do it, the question then became "if not now, then when ?". I mulled over the decision for a full year, testing my resolve and then made an appointment with a psychiatrist. He, listened to me jabber for an hour and then gave me a prescription for hormones. I didn't realise then but he used hormones as a diagnostic tool. Y'see, after taking them for six weeks, the pain that I'd mentioned, that ache in my soul, just melted away like a morning's dew. I realised it had happened right in the middle of crossing a (quiet) road on a bright spring morning and stopped, looked around, and thought to myself "So, this is what normal people feel like all the time"
I have felt like that ever since. Nothing will take that moment away from me, that moment when I really knew I was doing the right thing. When I went back to the psychiatrist he said that this was what he expected to hear. Anything else would have indicated that more research was needed.
There is whole other diary about my experiences of transition, But this is how it felt for me to be a boy who wanted to be a girl. Although other transgendered people may recognise something of themselves in my story, we seem to united mostly in our differences. So I know I can't speak for anybody else: This is my story and mine alone.