Monday, 29 December 2014

An added extra?

I find this topic challenging to say the least - and I know it is one that many of us grapple with.  Its also one that gets everyone riled up and that seriously is not my intention.  I just wanted the that chance to think it through and to start my thinking process.   As its my blog, it seemed to me that it was as good a place as any.  Also, sorry that this is a long blog, it just didn’t seem appropriate to split it.

The question I want to try to consider is: where do I sit on the transgender spectrum?  Am I transsexual or am I not?  It's a really critical question for me to answer at this juncture, because I know that fear of the answer is what is holding me back from moving forward.  I know there are lots of people who would say that if I have any confusion over it, then I can't possibly be transsexual.  You have to hate your male body so much that you can't bear even one moment more in it and that's how you know.  But there are other schools of thought too it seems.

So what do I know already?  Probably the best place to start is to summarise my current thinking and issues.

1. I know that my life as a man makes me despair.  I almost constantly wish I was a woman.  At least every 20-30 minutes my thoughts turn to the fact I am not the gender I want to be and a part of me sinks as I remember it and I'm overcome by a wave of sadness.  Even as I write now I could burst into tears of sadness.  When I get to spend time as Rhiannon conversely I feel relaxed, happy and content.  When someone mistakes me as a man, even when I am dressed as a man, it makes me feel even more sad inside.  I feel like screaming that I’m not a man and that they need to understand.  I physically feel an internal shudder within me when it happens.  Why can’t they just understand that I’m not what I seem to be on the surface.  Being a man all the time, hiding who I feel I really am tires me out.  The thought that I would live a female life and be accepted in that gender, even now, puts excited butterflies in my tummy.

2. I know that I have always felt like this. 34 years is a long time to try to work it out. Since I was 6, I knew that I wasn't a "normal" boy.  I remember the relaxation, happiness and joy I felt when we were able to use the dressing up box at school to put on dresses.  I longed to be in school on dressing up day and to be wearing shorts so that I looked properly dressed when I put a dress on.  I hated having my boy trousers sticking out of the bottom of a dress.  But even at that stage I was hugely aware that this wasn't what I was supposed to do.  Throughout my growing up, I did the same as many other trans people, I borrowed and took my mum's clothes before I started buying my own.  Any chance I had to dress and to feel like a girl, I took it.

3. I know that transitioning would never be an easy prospect for me.  On the outside, when I’m in man mode, I’m never mistaken as a girl.  I get the feeling when I’m in girl mode at the moment that I’m not fooling anyone.  I’m 5 11 and very fat.  People notice me and don’t seem to have any confusion about what I am.  Surgery, weight-loss, hormones etc would make a big difference I’m sure, but I need to recognise that I’m not one of the girls who will have a head start based on their body.  That said, I have virtually no Adam’s apple and am very rounded and have been told that I have a certain prettiness.   I know that inside me, the story is very different.  I relate to the world in a non-male way and whilst people don't see me as female on the outside, when they get to know me, they very quickly behave towards me as they would to a lady.  That doesn't make me a woman, but it makes me feel very caught in the middle.  I rarely get people reacting to me in a ‘blokey’ way, I think my internal ‘femininity’ shows through - even if its in a fat suit.

4. I’m not sure whether or not I hate my genitals.  I certainly dislike them a lot and would be much happier if I could have a vagina, but its not reached desperation levels quite yet.  Over the years, I have learned to switch off my brain and to not feel anything towards my male parts.  I’ve talked about my numbness before on this blog: I have developed a self-preserving survival mechanism.  I don’t know whether it is the ability to numb my feelings that has reduced the hatred.  I also am incredibly pragmatic and if I can’t easily resolve something, I move onto something I can do.

5. This is the one I’ve never really addressed on this blog.  Is all of this just a sexual kick for me?  A fetish, if you like.  As you probably could predict, the answer is no.  I am bisexual - I like both men and women sexually.  When I am dressed as Rhiannon, the act of dressing does not do anything for me sexually.  It just brings me a huge sense of wellbeing.  However, the thought that a man finds me attractive and wants to be with me as Rhiannon is the thing I most crave.  It is the thought or on a few occasions the actuality of that which does it for me.  I can literally feel my heart racing when I think a man is enjoying seeing me as an attractive woman.

So there you go, that is my summary statement.  The five things I know or have learnt over my 40-year long life about my gender.  There is probably more - and certainly a lot more detail, but over the last few days as I have reflected on my situation, these are the things that have come to mind.

There was one other: the fact that I enjoy the things traditionally associated with a ‘female role’ in terms of UK societal stereotypes.  I am much more driven by emotional relationships and connections and I have a strong nurturing and peacemaking side to my character as well as the things we laugh about like the fact that pink is my favourite colour, that I love cooking, shopping for shoes, reading chick lit, watching soppy films and I cry at everything.  I even cried recently at an Enid Blyton book.  I’m nosy, curious and ask lots of questions.  Conversely I hate a lot of the opposite things often associated with male traits including and up to football, fighting and being laddish.  I left it out as something I know about my gender, because how many of these things truly make you a woman?  None I suspect.  A stereotype is never a good yardstick.  Many of them could just being conditioning: I feel like a woman, so I want to do things that mark me as being more associated with that gender.

Given that this is a really difficult topic, I asked a friend, Becca of the Muttering blog, who has herself successfully transitioned to read and comment on my blog before I pressed the button.  She offered some really powerful insights which she gave me permission to replicate here:

“You really don't have to hate your body to be TS. You don't have to be trapped in the wrong body.  Even if you do get a sexual kick out of dressing - forget that as well.  Also, forget about the passing bit - whether you think it's an easy prospect or not. I tell you in time you will blend. You, (if you do this) could easily pass as female.  Yes it will take time, it might need help but you can do this.  I have seen pre pictures of so many woman and met many afterwards and they look amazing.  Sure some still look a bit male but many don't and they are treated as and seen as female 100%. The reality is there is always going to be a time until you have practised enough when you might stand out - but so what? You were born male and have lived as male for quite a time - it's going to take time to unlearn and relearn. After a time you will forget you are playing any role - because you aren't. You are female.  

The absolutely critical thing, what we are really talking about is the incessant desire to be female - Gender Dysphoria.  What I can tell you is that presenting as a woman ~ (which for me turned into being a woman) - however much you need, will cure Gender Dysphoria. Period. The cure works.  The question you need to ask yourself  is whether the Gender Dysphoria is great enough to actually do something about it. Not whether you can pass, not how old you are, not how tall you are and not how healthy or big you are now.  Is being happier in your life worth the potential cost?”

I need to now think, but am interested in what strikes you from all of that based on your knowledge of the subject or just your general views.  Please be kind - I know that it is tempting to berate me - or to comment that I don’t seem woman enough to transition or whatever, but I am genuinely trying to think about this.  Should I do this in such a public forum?  Perhaps not, but my regular readers on here give me such sage advice and support, you are very wise people - and I’m interested in your views.

11 comments:

  1. I might add a comment to this nugget 'Please be kind - I know that it is tempting to berate me - or to comment that I don’t seem woman enough to transition'

    Transition is about changing your life to allow you to be you. If this is a man dressing in clothes designated for a woman then fine. If this is gender queer then fine. If this is living part time then fine. If this is living your life 100% as female then fine.

    Transition might be used by the medical profession for various reasons - for me though (and perhaps you) it was about freeing myself from the confines and walls that I had built to be what others expected of me.

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  3. (I made a typo in my first attempt)

    Well, having read what you say about your feelings, I'd say you were someone who would be much happier living a natural and honest female life. Becca's practical and perceptive comments need no additions from me. The questions now arise: What can be done about this? And if something can be done, then at what rate?

    Lucy

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  4. I'm with the choir, it sounds to me like you already have your answer. You seem more to be looking for permission to have that answer. I do not believe that anyone needs permission for an answer they have reached (ha, and I can say it with a straight face) - but I am happy to give you permission to have the answer you have already reached.

    I think whether or not someone is TS depends entirely on the individual, and the context in which that individual finds themself; as does the method of dealing with it. So much depends on context, society and the life you wish to lead.

    Like I say, you seem to have reached a well-balanced, well-considered and fully thought-out answer.

    God bless,

    Joanna
    x

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  5. I think that you know the answer.

    The only questions are, are you prepared to submit too the interrogations which a gender clinic would expect you to undertake? They will give you two independent opinions of how they see you and there is no obligation to be swept into a "transition". I resisted seeing anyone for countless decades because I knew who I was and though seeing a psychiatrist was inappropriate but eventually I went and my life's direction changed before I left the building...

    Second question is are you prepared to put up with two or three years of slightly disrupted and at times uncomfortable life so that you can spend the rest of it without a head full of spinning questions which have no answers?

    I remember watching Becca inch slowly towards that jump into transition, she may well have set a new world record, all the while making positive changes ready for the day. If you chose this mission, be positive, have some friends about you, make preparations and have a plan.

    Those of us who even get to the point of speaking about how we feel are the tip of the iceberg and not all of us get a chance of finally being our real selves. If it is for you there has never been a better time...

    Long post, long comment... Good luck.

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  6. Thank you so much for your comments and your kind thoughts - I'm sure that you can imagine how much it is appreciated.  This might sound naive, but I genuinely didn't think I had an answer to my question already.  The fact that I do, though, is something you all seem unanimously agreed upon and surprises me, but reading back over what I wrote from a dispassionate perspective, I guess it is less of a shock really.  

    Honestly, whilst I am excited and happy, the thought of moving this forward just terrifies me. I'm really afraid.  But to use a metaphor I read yesterday, how can I not run out of a burning house?  It isn't brave, just necessary.  How I've felt without any salve on my feelings towards my gender over the last 12 months has been awful.  But the implications of pursuing this are huge and scary in my world.  I know they are in anyone's, but forgive me an overly dramatic moment.  The break up of a marriage, the impact on children, not to mention the devastation to my business.  So much to consider.  But as Coline said, the process is tough and long. Getting it going is not an outcome.  It is just the start of a journey.  One that I can't do other than begin.

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    1. Often having an answer doesn't feel like one at all, that's why it's important to have people reflect back at you.

      I can agree with the comment below though, in my experience young people tend to have more compassion and, honestly, more rational outlooks on the world. As much as they dislike change, they tend to cut to the truth of matters far quicker than older people. The younger they are the more fundamental the truths they cut to.

      The rest... I don't know. My workplace made me very depressed. My relationship continues to be a strange place. If I had courage... You have courage.

      Much love and God bless,

      Joanna
      x

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    2. Thank you Joanna. My thoughts regularly turn to you - your journey is a tough one and there are so many obstacles. But you keep going and keep going. Your example is more inspiring than you think. I hope that your view is right on how my kids might react.

      Thank you also for your confidence in my level of courage. I sincerely hope that it is there and that it doesn't depart when it is required.

      Love, Rhi x

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  7. Some of the toughest challenges are for those who have become entangled with marriage and children.

    It would be wrong to assume that children will have negative reactions, they often seem the most understanding. Having an independent employment is supposed to be a lot better than working for an unsupportive company and used to be a recommended step if at all possible.

    The first positive step is hardest to take, three years or so out of your life seems an age to endure but many stand on the edge of decision making for longer than the process would have taken. I certainly wasted too much time and regret it and hate to watch others loose time too...

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    1. I'm well and truly entangled :o( and in terms of the kids, I really hope so - I embarrass them enough at the moment seemingly (certainly my eldest) that I think I won't be so lucky, but I certainly have everything crossed. I will do everything I can, but I don't think that their mother is going to help the situation when she finds out.

      Work is an interesting one - I have independent employment in the field of management training. The prevailing view is that groups will be uncomfortable being trained by someone like me and my time will be difficult to sell. There are other options in terms of the type of role I undertake, but as you said earlier, there has never been a better time, so you never know...

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  8. Late as usual, sorry about the delay Rhi.
    I’m also with Joanna’s choir. You have answered your own question and with a little fine tuning I think your there. It was good to put it all down as you have. I think your subconscious had the answer beforehand and through writing it down brought it to the forefront so that you can now work with it. Mentioning the burning house also shows where your thoughts are going, so get moving before your backside gets burnt!
    No seriously, for the next steps you will need more intensive support. You know us on-liners will be there to help, but see that you have off-liners in the wings and you have eye contact with them as much as possible.
    Don’t forget to post Rhi, even little banal things we need to know. xx
    Lots of Love
    Abigale

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