Sunday, 26 September 2010

High fells, a brave dog, Captain Cook and Dracula

I'm on my travels again, this time in the North of England. I'm staying at Husthwaite, a bit north-west of York. It's a great spot for taking in not only the coast from Tyneside to the Humber, and the North York Moors, but a big stretch of the Pennines to the west.

This time I'm concentrating on landscape shots, and have brought along my big Nikon D700 with the weighty but oh-so-useful f/2.8 24-70mm zoom lens. I had my Pennine Day Out two days ago, and was lucky enough to do it in sunshine for the most part. The finest scenery I saw was on a narrow mountain road that ran along the south-east side of Pen-y-Ghent, one of the notable hills with an unmistakeable outline. Wonderful views, but not a road to lightly take if there is any risk of snow! This is Lassie country, but I wouldn't like to rely on some plucky sheepdog fetching help. Needless to say, Fiona made light work of the gradients and was a warm and comfortable shelter from the chilly breeze - almost cold enough for sleet as the afternoon wore on.

I noticed that the Settle-Carlisle railway line wasn't far off. This is the highest length of main line railway in England, and crosses desolate hills and moorland. It was a notable feat of engineering, and I recalled that the Ribblehead Viaduct was well worth seeing. I arrived at nearby Ribblehead station just as a diesel locomotive hauling cement trundled through. Then lashing rain descended. I moved off to the Viaduct, and as I parked the golden sunshine came out again. This changeability is of course typical of any mountain country. Two train enthusiasts had a movie camera set up on a tripod, ready for a southbound passenger train to emerge from the grey hills and cross the lit-up Viaduct. I went over to them and chatted about the prospects of getting a good shot. Not for long - the rain, or sleet, returned and we had to scurry for our cars. And the train never came. I had to be content with the empty but still impressive Viaduct, a defiant reminder of the Victorian belief that engineering could overcome the forces of nature.

The map showed two other stations in this wilderness. I went on to Dent, the highest and most remote of the Pennine stations, and not an easy place to get to in any ordinary car. I arrived at sunset and the lights were already lit. It is clearly popular with hill walkers, but I had the place to myself. Rather ominously I noticed explicit instructions on what to do if reaching the station after missing the last train of the day, so that you wouldn't be totally stranded. Hmmm.

The wild road that went on uphill from Dent station carried a warning that it could be dangerous in winter, but I took it because I was desperate to go to the loo, which meant squatting on the lee side of Fiona somewhat in view, and I wanted to be pretty certain that nobody would turn up while I had my big bottom on display. I'm sure you all wanted to know about this! Luckily no passing Tom, Dick or Harry drove up to chortle at the Melford derriere.

The road eventually descended to Garsdale station. This was once called Hawes Junction and long ago was the scene of two dreadful railway accidents, one of which involved the night Scotch Express. An unlucky place perhaps. I also recall that Hawes Junction was where a steam locomotive got caught in the howling wind while on the station turntable, and spun round and round, quite out of control. I think the bewildered driver and fireman eventually stopped it turning by shovelling coal into the turntable, jamming it. Clearly a maliganant mountain spirit was at work at Hawes Junction!

The modern station had a moving story to tell. On the down (northbound) platform was a metal statue of a dog named Ruswarp (pronounced 'Russup'). This dog belonged to a man who fought long and hard to save the line from closure in the 1980s. He was a keen hill walker. In the winter of 1990 he went walking with Ruswarp in the Welsh mountains, but never returned. His body was found many weeks later. With it was Ruswarp, who had never abandoned his master. Ruswarp, incredibly, was still alive, and was nursed back to sufficient health to attend his master's funeral, although he died soon after. By popular demand, money was found for a statue in the memory of this most faithful and resiliant dog.

Yesterday I met up with H---, who lives in Middlesbrough, and we went to Whitby. Whitby is famous for Captain Cook, the renowned ocean explorer; the past 'glories' of whaling Moby Dick style; and as the place where Dracula arrived in England, in a storm-tossed ship with a dead crew that as if guided by the Devil passed between the two piers and beached in the harbour, allowing Dracula to leap ashore in the form of a great black dog. He soon selected his first victim, sweet young Lucy Westernra, and you all know the rest. A tempest was blowing when H--- and I arrived, creating a leaden sky and huge waves, sea-foam flying through the air. I got some great shots, and even better ones when the sun came out and lit up the ruined Abbey on the cliffs overlooking the harbour.

I can't insert pictures into this post, which I've put together on my mobile phone, but will do so once home.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Mary Hopkin or Ena Sharples?

In the wake of signing that surgery consent form (see the previous post), and indeed following all that serious stuff on the Twelve Accusations, please forgive me if I temporarily become all light and frivolous!

Now take a butchers at the two photos above. One is Ena Sharples, a character in Coronation Street on TV during the 1960s, a real nasty bit of work, an interfering, holier-than-thou old battleaxe who always had the last word. Even grumpy old Albert Tatlock couldn't stand up to her. Nobody could, except maybe Elsie Tanner. (You'll gather that I enjoyed watching the programme in those days!) The other shot is of a folk singer called Mary Hopkin who won the top prize on a TV talent programme called Opportunity Knocks! It was hosted by Hughie Green, who had already had huge success with his 1960s game show Double Your Money, not to be confused with the rival Take Your Pick, hosted by Michael Miles (which I liked better). God, who now remembers these shows? Anyway, Mary Hopkin was signed up by the Apple label and taken under Paul McCartney's wing. The first result in 1968 was a hauntingly beautiful song called Those Were The Days. Soon she was chosen to sing for the UK in the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest with Knock, Knock, Who's There? which was a catchy little number, though trounced by Ireland's entry sung by Dana. The photo was taken by me from a Radio Times cover of the time. As you can see, young Mary was very attractive, and she had a lovely clear singing voice. Welsh, of course. Just like me. (Wales is the Land of Song)

Here's the frivolous bit. Can you decide, looking at the shots below, whether I'm attempting an Ena Sharples or Mary Hopkin impersonation?
I hadn't shaved yet when the shots were taken, just to make it harder. Nor am I singing. But I am putting on a Northern Accent. Anyroad, see if tha can tell one from t'other.

The consent form has been signed

I saw Dr Curtis in London two days ago, and we discussed my referral for surgery at the Brighton Nuffield Hospital next spring. The latest tests results showed nothing amiss. I have also had the all-clear on my breast scan. So, after outlining the procedure, Dr Curtis gave me a consent form to read very carefully and send back one copy to him. He'll be writing to Mr Philip Thomas, the surgeon of my choice.

And I'll take it from there...

Steady as she goes, helmsman. Aye aye, Cap'n!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Chubby cheeks

Hello, hello! Look at this. I shot myself at an unusual angle, and it shows how my cheeks have changed shape with the hormones. Wow, that's encouraging. I'm not pretty, but that's not a bad approximation to a female face. I'm especially pleased to see how things are at eyebrow level. Yes... maybe nothing will need to be done in that area.

Sorry about the bit of bra showing.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Accusation number 12 - Not in God's image: you're a deviant

Here we are, at the end of the list of accusations. I'm so glad I persevered and addressed them all. I didn't want to leave them at the back of my mind, and then, two weeks before the op, have a sudden realisation that I hadn't thought things through as well as I should have. I need to go off to the hospital perfectly focussed. I won't heal fast if mentally confused or exhausted.

The last accusation is about desecrating the human form because the human form is sacred, in the very image of God himself. I am assuming that such an accusation would come from somebody in whom religion is strong, and whose church sees nothing good about transsexuality:

Artificially-created trans people are not in the true image of God, and are in the realm of Frankenstein's monster - basically outcasts, who are nothing, and cannot have the solace and divine protection that the faithful and right-thinking can expect. And indeed deserve persecution.

And I added:

I'm not a religious person, and so I'm personally indifferent to the last point, except for the threat of active persecution, but some listen to what their church has to say about transsexual people, and I may have to contend with an argument in this area sooner or later. Nobody in my circle is an intolerant fundamentalist, but I could bump into someone like that out in the street at any time. And for 'church' and 'religion' read any system of belief which excludes those who are regarded as deviant.

I would like to stress again that I am not a conventionally religious person. I was not brought up in a religious household. Something put my Dad off religion early on in his life, and although he never discussed any religious issue, I could tell he was agin it. My Mum did occasionally, in her saddest moments, find comfort in the atmosphere of an empty church. But she avoided attending any kind of service. She sometimes spoke about religion, and I gathered that she had her own simple kind of spirituality and reverence, quite outside organised religion. So, as I say, it was not a religious house, and it would have occasioned no raised eyebrows if I had, on a whim, worshipped pagan gods; although worshipping anything would have been well out of character for me. Strangely, Mum saw to it that both myself and my brother W--- were christened in a Church of England ceremony when babies. However, I disliked my church experiences when young, and was never confirmed. I escaped it all quite early, when aged eleven, and never missed it thereafter.

Where do I stand now? After all, death is closer. Well, I don't feel much different. I love to explore old country churches; but that's chiefly for the history within, and, yes, their photographic potential. I like churchyards for the same reason. I still haven't 'got religion'. Nothing has drawn me in. I can sit in Kentisbeare church for an hour, and think of Dad, but I don't think of God. I can speak to a clergyman in Salisbury Cathedral about what losing my parents meant to me, but it doesn't bring me into the church community. Like Mum, I will be forever outside any organisation. I am not antagonistic towards it as Dad was, but unlike Mum I feel no spirituality.

I used to say I was an atheist. But nowadays I'm not happy with that. It seems too dogmatic. How can I claim to be so certain that there is no supernatural agency at all? On the other hand, the notion of entities like humans but of godlike stature, understanding and capability seems mistaken. It seems like the kind of limited thing a human being would imagine. If a supernatural agency exists, then my personal belief is that it would have no physical form and be quite unrecognisable. And it would be non-personal: this entity would not be a person like ourselves, and would not be 'aware' of individual human beings. We could not speak to it in English or whatever. So prayers, incantations and spells would be utterly ineffective. We could not invoke it, nor would it intervene. But it would influence our lives. Not our fortunes, though: it wouldn't make us richer or save us from harm. It would shape our development and growth, like breathing the right gas would, or being subject to the right gravity. Yes, it would drive evolution. I don't think that calling it 'the collective forces of Nature' really describes what I'm getting at, but such a phrase seems to mean something, and allows some mental grip on this vague and slippery notion.

This is a good deal removed from any of the world's main religions. It's not my last word on it. But you can see that I'm unlikely to get mainstream on religion.

I feel completely unbound by any religious teachings or laws. I simply cannot accept them, feeling as I do. They are human words, written or spoken by humans, and I have no means of checking the ultimate source. I have no faith; I can't make that leap; it would be irrational to do so, and there is nothing calling me to do so.

Show me the Bible, and you show me a scholarly translation of ancient texts. The texts seem completely of their time, but not of our time. They contain the historic wisdom and the prejudices of their authors. As have more recent texts through the centuries. As do current texts. What staggers me is how anyone, even somebody who actually thought they were having a personal conversation with a Deity, could possibly comprehend whatever vast message or vision was before them. The human mind just isn't good enough for that. They could only have got a fraction of it. And they may have misunderstood. The original texts remain as immensely valuable historical material; the words of wisdom in them are still wisdom; but I cannot regard them as any more than the words of a human person or persons who felt divinely inspired. They have no greater authority.

So if anyone accuses me of doing something that is against 'what it says in the Bible' I am unmoved.

And if anyone maintains that I am defiling the true image of God by transitioning and having surgery, then I have to say that you are quoting some human person's words at me. It is telling, I would say, that a text written by a human being should insist on God having the same physical form as a human being. But if we take this seriously, can we get a good picture of God? For instance, would He be male or female? If He is definitely male, then is that saying that no woman is in His image? What does that imply for women? Are they all deviants? And if he is definitely female, does that not imply that all men are deviants? And - additionally - doesn't it imply that anyone who wants to look like a woman should be regarded as blessed because they aspire to be like the true image?

Or is God genderless? Why indeed would a creating eternal entity with no successor need to have reproductive organs like ours? In which case, how can it matter what sort of organs I have? Or whether I grow breasts? Or have my nose altered? And if you dodge all this by saying that God has no physical form at all, then how can it matter what any individual human being looks like? Myself included?

So I reject all arguments that transsexuals are breaking God's law by defiling His image, are deviant monsters, are outcasts beyond all kindness and charity; and deserve persecution without pity or remorse. Only human beings would ever wish that on someone. Not a loving and caring Deity.

Phew. My very first ever public religious statement. I hope I offended no-one. I'm quite certain that God, if he exists in anything like the form generally assumed, an all-knowing, understanding, forgiving entity, would not be offended; and if so no-one else should be.

Accusation number 11 - Just making a big defiant gesture

Nearly finished with these accusations. We're down to the rag-tag ones that haven't a lot of content; they're more like taunts, meant to sting, but they can't do much else.

Knowing my hatred of convention, it's the ultimate defiant gesture.

I've said elsewhere that I'm a cat that walks alone, and a lone wolf, and other things appropriate to someone who is a self-reliant individual. I'd like the world to understand that I prefer my own company, and require plenty of personal space, and, if I possibly can, I will insist on doing it my way.

And I'd like to add that I'm fiercely and stubbornly independent and  need no helping hand. But it's become clear to me that this isn't quite true, and will be even less true in the future. That's a humbling lesson I'm beginning to learn - a hard one, believe me. There's arrogance in taking on life solo. I think I can manage it, but I'm fooling myself if I think I can do it without a background network of good friends, and whatever remains of my sadly reduced family.  

But even so, I still think my credentials as a creature prepared to defy convention are intact.

Note the words 'prepared to'. I've seldom had the guts to go out on a limb and expose myself too obviously, at least in the old life. Oh yes, I did lots of little things that were subversive of convention. But rarely anything big. The most enormous thing I did when young was not to go to university. It was my own choice. About the only thing I had a real choice about. Mum and Dad could not have denied me the opportunity to go. The masters at my grammar school expected me to go. 90% of my sixth form actually applied to go, and no doubt went, some to Oxbridge. I opted out, my consciously defiant final gesture of mindless bloody hate against the school system I loathed with all my soul. It had utterly wasted the best years of my early life. Well, that was the emotion behind that rather puny, immature stand against the tide.

Thereafter, I confess I swam with the tide much more than against it. I joined the rat race. For ten years I did my best to win advancement. I had some success. I learned to use normality as a way to get things. But they were the things my conventional way of  life at the time made necessary, not the things my soul wanted deep down. About the only thing I got that I really valued, that I still value, was my connection with A---, my step-daughter.  The rest has passed away.

About twenty years ago I realised that I was simply a cog in the machine, and that I didn't matter. I was utterly replaceable. Those little subversions date from then on. They helped me get through the rest of my life. I might have looked like a likeable chap in a smart suit, with a neat haircut and polite ways, but inside I had started to boil. And people close to me must have picked up some of that. M--- did. Friends, family and work colleagues discovered one by one that my fuse was short, even if I hardly ever exploded. I was a volcano emerging from a long period of dormancy.

So was my announcement of gender dysphoria a fist shaken at the world? The eruption? Some would say yes, I spewed magma, scattered hot ash over eveything, and sent out a tsunami that devastated everything nearby.

I think the reverse happened. My realisation of how I was acted as a timely safety-valve, releasing the pressure, converting the anger into action. I finally understood myself, saw the way forward, and had found a good reason to stay alive.

Accusation number 10 - A great way to leave people behind

Ouch. This is a below-the-belt accusation that I hate. But there is just a little truth in it. Here it is again: 

It's a convenient way to permanently banish from my life certain people I've never liked.

The meaning here is that there have always been people in my life who I've not got on well with, or who have argued with me, or who irritate me, or simply bore me; and announcing my transition is one sure way to keep them at arm's length, or to permanently sever the relationship. And that I've deliberately embarked on transition with that result in mind.

Now this is a very pointed accusation to make. But I will be honest. Yes, I knew that some people would take my transition amiss, and retreat with a sharp intake of breath, and keep away from me as if I were contaminated. In one or two cases I really haven't minded. In others I do mind: I had foreseen their likely negative reaction, but hoped they would overcome their misgivings and at least keep in touch. It was naive of me. I have had many more disappointments than satisfactions.

Do I really need to say that this cannot be the only reason why I'd embark on something that would turn my life upside down? I could simply have sent a letter or email on the lines of 'We've drifted so far apart that.../We've not seen each other for so long that.../I realise now that we never got on well, so.../I've found it impossible to forgive what you did to me, and so.../There's no point in it any more, and so...' or, if I were callous enough to do it, make (or answer) a phone call in that vein. Either way, it's brutal. But it would deal with the problem, if it's right to call other people 'problems'.

Or, coward's way out, just stay silent and ignore their existence until they 'get the message'.

Simple ways are the best.

No need to turn yourself into a girl just to avoid someone.

Accusations number 8 and 9 - It's a whim or retirement project

Thank goodness. These accusations are getting less personal, and therefore easier to answer.

My transitioning is just a whim, a temporary enthusiasm that will pass.
If not a mere whim, then a project to occupy my mind in retirement.

A whim is a thing of the moment, with the implication that it's lightly taken up and can be just as lightly abandoned. And that it's shallow and not deeply-felt. Also that it may be unwise and ill-considered. Well,  the bare fact that I have pursued my transition for a over two years now surely shows that it wasn't a short-lived enthusiasm!

In July 2008 I had a Eureka Moment and for me my self-perception was changed forever. And I still feel the driving force, the need to move forward deeper into this new life. The 'enthusiasm' hasn't waned.

What about the following accusation, that this is all a grand Retirement Project, filling a need that was lacking? That's a little harder to deal with. In some ways the transition process does resemble a project. It has an original conception and an aim; you have to plan it out carefully; it has a timetable, and stages of completion to celebrate; you need to bring in outside professionals; it has a cost to keep an eye on, so that you come in without exceeding your budget; and so on. For someone who, three years after quitting the office, was sitting at home with little to do, certainly nothing important, a big project would have had an enormous appeal. Hence the accusation.

But hold on. Projects don't normally bring about the physical transformation of those engaged in them. I agree that someone who sets themselves a goal to lose a large amount of weight will look different at the end, but they will still be the same man or woman, just slimmer and healthier. They won't have a radically changed body chemistry. And apart from possible work on their digestive tract, they won't had have had drastic surgery. Nor will they present themselves to the world as someone entirely new.

Projects have a limited life, and do not go on into the far future, or last indefinitely. But my transition may go on for the rest of my life. The bulk of it will be done inside the next two years, but what about the 'catching-up' part? Somehow I have to find out and learn everything that a young girl or a young woman picks up gradually over her first twenty-odd years, and at the same time 'unlearn' all the male stuff I actually picked up during that part of my life. It'll take a lot of time. I'll slowly absorb what I need to know until it's all second nature and woven into the tapestry of my mind, but it could easily take all the time I have left. And that's just the background knowledge. I need to get the current persona absolutely right, and keep it up to date. I'm embracing this challenge with pleasure, but I'm under no illusion that I've set myself a standard of 'passing' (will somone invent a better word, please?) that will stretch me more than I've ever been stretched before in my life. Mere 'getting by' will not be good enough.

I think this sort of lifelong commitment goes way beyond a mere 'project'. I'd liken it to a marriage that you mean to stay with forever, whatever may happen, with no opt-out if personal or financial costs overrun. Yes, it has given me 'something to do in my retirement'. But I would say also that I have, late in the day, and much later than I would have wished, discovered my true self, and that has given me 'something to be in my retirement' -  a rather different thing.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Accusation number 7 - Self-mutilation

After the last accusation, I turn to this one with almost relief!

Transition surgery is no more than self-mutilation.

Well it just isn't. To get as far as surgery, whether genital or facial, you must have spoken to medical professionals and had a long lead-in time in which to think it all over. Both types of surgery, particularly of course the genital surgery, are a one-way, no-return ticket. It is so unlikely that you wouldn't be sure, and I mean really sure, that this is not only what you want, but in every way right for your future life.

Let's concentrate on gential surgery, which is the main thing behind this accusation.

It's done in a hospital by an expert surgeon who will remodel your male bits to look like female bits, and it won't just be for appearances; the new vagina and clitoris will work. Once healed, there will be nothing to distinguish you in form or function from a natal woman in that area, short of a deep internal probe. That'll be true of any competent surgery. Some surgeons may produce a prettier result, but since women across the world come in all shapes and sizes, including what they look like down there, there isn't a 'standard vagina'. If the parts are all present and correct, and have healed up nicely, the result will look pleasant and natural. And not like a mutilation.

Nor are there any of the circumstances associated with mutilation as usually understood. It's not in the same universe as having your arm hacked off in a vicious African war. Closer to home, it isn't the outcome of a spur-of-the-moment decision made in doubt and despair, performed by some charlatan in a back street parlour. Not something done just because you're drunk and your mates are having it done too, and you're a cissy or a killjoy if you don't as well - like being tattooed, or pierced to excess or in strange places, which is indeed regarded as self-mutilation in many quarters. Nor is it anything like ritual mutilation of the face or sexual parts, to conform with a tribal requirement as you reach a certain age. It's not even like circumcision, performed for religious reasons, a rite of passage that involves a permanent but socially acceptable change in your physical appearance in those parts. And is circumcision done for hygiene or functional reasons a mutilation?

Genital surgery is entirely for oneself, to make one's body seem right. Nobody will ordinarily see the result, but for you the psychological benefits are huge. It will also make foreign travel safe, as you can now be quite certain you won't be embarrassed in a strip search. Wearing a bikini on a beach becomes a possibility (though not if you have my figure!). It will make conventional sex in your true gender possible - regardless of whether you'll be active in that area. And there may be other benefits too. But the first mentioned, feeling right, is the main one, the overwhelmingly important one. No suggestion of self-harming or depression here. It's a gift to yourself, a private thing that of all things will make you feel good about yourself. How can that be self-mutilation?

Yes, it will involve some effort. The discomfort of being post-op. You'll be sore. But you know that. You're not masochistic. If you were, no psychiatrist would let you proceed. Let's not forget the chore of dilation, and the amount of careful washing required. A vagina like we get needs maintenance. But (dilation apart) it would in any case. Even if entirely natural, a vagina requires a much higher standard of cleanliness than a willy would. But you fully understand that. And then you must remember to lubricate it before any real-life use (not a problem if you're older of course; if really post-menopausal you'd genuinely be a bit 'dry' and would always need a 'quick visit the bathroom first'. No problemo). Genital surgery is going to make life a bit complicated henceforth. But you've considered all aspects; it hasn't been a snap decision; you've no illusions. And what are the inconveniences, anyway? No more really than a natal woman has to put up with. The point is, you're not making a gesture; you're equipping yourself for whatever life lies ahead. It's not self-mutilation.

Finally, facial surgery. I've got mixed feeling about this. I hate the idea, really. That's because I cringe at the processes involved. It's not the money. It's not what other people may think of the result - it's my face, not theirs. It's having to go through an ordeal. It's some consolation that it will heal up quickly, compared to downstairs, but that's about the only good point I can see. Apart from the obvious gains if it comes out all right - a much more feminine face, and (I hope) total assurance that I won't be seen as anything other than a woman. Important for travelling around. Important for social occasions. Important if I ever needed to get a job.

But I still look in the mirror all day long, wondering whether the hormones won't do enough on their own. People tell me that I basically have a round, female face; that my big ugly nose doesn't matter; that I haven't actually got a lantern jaw; that I've no Neanderthal brow ridge; that my mouth and especially my eyes are just right. And when I experiment with my eyebrows and eye shadow, and mascara, and lipstick, which all draw attention away from my nose and chin, I can see what they mean.

I've decided to give those hormones a long while yet, maybe a year, to do more. But if in the end I still feel uncomfortable, then I will go for some surgery. Whatever I have done will be with the express purpose of fixing a defect, or making some feature more attractive. I don't need to look beautiful, but I need to maximise softness and delicacy in my face. The surgery will be well-considered, targeted, with a definite improving purpose. How can that be mutilation?

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Accusation number 6 - I have destroyed other people's happiness

I had to take a short break from blogging because (a) a funeral was coming up, and took place yesterday, and (b) this latest post is difficult to write about and I just couldn't do it without a lot of reflection first.

I have destroyed other people's happiness.

That's a a terrible thing to accuse me of. It makes me feel like a criminal. And really, I haven't 'done' anything; I've just tried to 'be' the person I should be. If it had been anything else... Consider an ambition to get the top job in public life; an ambition to head a global company; a glory-seeking or idealism-inspired calling to be a front-line soldier; or an overwhelming need to explore or conquer the most dangerous places left on land, or in the depths of the sea, or to take part in a manned Mars mission. All involve 'being' what you need to be, and realising your proper potential. All might mean that your nearest and dearest are affected for the worse. But the consequences are so much more easily tolerated. The predictable damaging fallout is just not seen in the same light.

Is it 'my fault', anyway? Assuming my transsexuality is real, and I have no doubt of that, and indeed I don't think that after two years or so anyone else has any doubt either, then isn't my condition to blame? Supposing I had developed some overwhelming disability that badly affected everything in the future. Perhaps I had suffered injuries so awful in a terrorist bombing that all the old life was blown away. Or I was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or similar. These things could and probably would place immense strain on my relationships with other people, and yet surely I would not be held accountable?

I suppose the difference is that I still seem to be much the same as before. Any changes seem superficial, brought about by hormones, a new hair style, electrolysis and 'inappropriate' female clothing. I don't seem to be suffering from anything save a delusion, or wishful thinking. Egged on by 'sympathetic' counsellors and medical professionals, I seem to have put myself first, and ignored the feelings of others. In short, I have gone for what I want because I can, and I don't care about the 'collateral damage' inflicted. Gender dyphoria - essentially a self-diagnosis - has 'let me off the hook' if I want a convenient excuse. But in reality I am completely blameworthy, so it is said.

How can I deny that before I realised I was transsexual, things were steady and stable and people were happy with their ideas about me, and liked the old me, and thought things would continue in this amiable way into the indefinite future, and that I would of course be a partner and companion in all sorts of future enterprises and adventures, retired as I was with the health, the means and the yearning to see the world, and enjoy many pleasant things. And how can I deny that all this has changed for everyone who knew me? Or that for a few, and one person in particular, the effects have been devastating? I can't waive all this away.

I am so sorry for the grief caused. I so wish it could have been otherwise. I readily accept criticism for any clumsiness or insensitivity on my side in the handling of my transition so far.

But not for the original need to 'come out', and then act upon my self-knowledge.

I accept that for my parents the shock was severe and certainly never made them happy. However, Dad died with his thinking modified somewhat. I know that, because we spoke about it. He wasn't joyful about acquiring a daughter late in life, and said that he 'didn't approve of it'; but he still had his child, and evidently a child with whom he could do all the things he had liked doing with his son. And that child had recently delivered a funeral speech about his deceased wife, the badly-missed love of his life. He had been proud to hear it, proud of the way I had delivered it, and he had told his child that. There was no mistake; Dad was beginning to see positive aspects to how things now were, how much still remained, and how it might all work out.

But despite reassurances, I will always feel that Mum died with her last thoughts about her son in turmoil. She refused to discuss any part of my gender issues. And with her mind closed, she left herself in an unhappy place. My strangeness came between us. I am just glad that the morphine soon left her too sleepy to think about anything else but essential matters: and my gender was surely not one of those. But she died without knowing me as I wanted to be known, and there as an awkwardness between us that I can never put right now. And that is my grief, apart from losing her anyway, another victim of cancer. Dad was at least able to die on his feet, which is how he would have preferred to go.

I can't help thinking about the different ways my parents reacted. Dad moved from a stern, judge-like position, to an unwilling acceptance of how it was, and then saw a future. Probably he consoled himself by the thought that he wouldn't live long enough to witness the more pronounced effects of my transition. We had discussed the hormonal changes and the surgery. I had given him an undertaking 'not to do anything too drastic' in his lifetime. We hadn't defined that; but he knew that I'd continue with the hormones, and gradually become more and more feminised, and that the forthcoming second cruise together that he'd booked (but never went on) was probably going to be my last public appearance in totally male mode. He was adapting and continued to share my company. I recall playing piquet with him at the end of January 2009, and his clear delight that, after more than forty years of play, I'd finally drawn an almost perfect hand on the fifth deal:
It was such a rare event. I hope nobody minds a shot or two of the moment.

How I miss Dad. Our card games - usually crib and piquet - were an institution, and I have nobody to play with any more.

But Mum. The shutters came down, we ignored the problem, and she retreated into the awkward stand-off I have mentioned. Of course she was very ill; of course she should not have had to deal with this at her age; but she made no effort and there was no meeting of minds.

I think this is an illustration of how two people can take the same news so differently, and how one made something of the changed circumstances, and how one did not. They were, crucially, both very close to me: they were bound to be profoundly affected. One made up his mind to adapt and look for ways in which to share a new life with me. One dismissed all possibilities of that.

Did I destroy my parents' happiness? I'd say not. Dad was finding a way to cope, and if he had lived we would have got closer. Harder to say with Mum; if she had been well, I somehow think she would never have accepted me. But the fact was that she was dying, and not in a position to explore acceptance. She had no future at all. The cancer was her destruction.

And if Dad's happiness was less, it was chiefly because he had lost Mum. He still smiled, though, and even laughed when I was around. One evening, on our April 2009 cruise, maybe three weeks before he died, he awoke from a death-like slumber after dinner to find me in tears, because I was so worried and afraid to lose him. And he spoke softly and reassuringly to me, as a parent to a child. I told him that I loved him, and could not bear the thought of him slipping away in his sleep. He smiled, and said he wouldn't do that.  He was gentle to me, to his long-haired weird-looking son who was becoming his daughter. And I knew I hadn't ruined his life at all. We had found a closeness never before experienced.

So I reply to this accusation thus: that devastation need not be complete and forever; something can always be retrieved from the situation; it presents anyway something entirely new to build on; and the future always has wide possibilities that might provide happiness. If you will not work with what is left of the past, then go out and create something new. And that's possible at any age.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Accusation number 5 - I am destroying the beautiful me that was

Next, an accusation that really bothers me:

I am slowly destroying the lovely person I used to be. The replacement is horrible, lacking all the warm, caring qualities that marked the old me.

This hits me hard. I am almost angry about it.

It is most emphatically not my wish to destroy any part of the old me. I used to be fine about myself, up to a point. I felt unusual and slightly eccentric in a way I couldn’t put my finger on. But I could ignore that for the most part. I could and did live a worthwhile male life, and I got positive feedback for my male presentation. It was never a satisfying or especially joyous existence, and I often felt out of my depth in interpersonal matters, but it was ‘all right’ in many ways. Occasionally I had seriously good moments. In no sense was I a tortured soul. I certainly never developed a destructive hatred towards myself, and I never wanted to self-harm. Indeed, for decades I took care not to abuse my body. For a very long time I thought (if I thought at all) that I must have a Peter Pan fetish - a strong desire to keep looking young and unblemished, and never to grow old.

I suppose it helped not being very interested in a physical life. Anyway, I sat on my personality problems so well that I could forget them. It was self-deception carried to a high level. Certainly I found it easiest and most comfortable not to ask myself any searching questions; and I was in any case not naturally given to self-analysis.

I am told that I was a lovely person, that I had warm, caring qualities. I hope it was true. Whatever I was, I maintain that I am still like that. I simply don’t see how a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and the transition process that has followed, can alter my character. If I was kind, generous, empathetic and reasonable before, then those qualities should still be there, and not obliterated. And if I was lazy, boring, unsubtle and slow-witted before, then regrettably I will still be these things too. I can’t see any mechanism - apart from genuine mental illness, or brain damage, or brain deterioration - that would alter my personality so much that you could declare it ‘destroyed’.

It’s easy to rationalise the accusation in this way, but it doesn’t do much to reduce the sting of it. The idea that I am wilfully wrecking a beautiful person - myself as I was - is a very hurtful notion. And it hurts all the more because the ‘new’ me is so thoroughly rejected and reviled. As if the nice old me were Dr Jekyll, and the awful new me were Mr Hyde. Dr Jekyll was high-minded and wanted to do good; his alter ego Mr Hyde was bestial and gave free rein to all that was bad. I’ve always seen it as a moral tale about how the good and bad sides of a person are constantly at war, usually in a kind of balance, but weakness may enable the bad side to win out in the end.

I am outraged to be thought weak, or that ‘Lucy Melford’ is a kind of disgusting monster, and not simply a natural development of a hitherto very pleasant person.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Accusation number 4 - I have rewritten my personal history

The fourth Accusation (‘The Fourth Accusation’ sounds like the title of a political drama, doesn’t it?) was that I am bending the truth to fit a present need. It went as follows.

I am rewriting my personal history all the time, reinventing the past to fit my vision of how I’d like to be. Past events that had no significance are now reinterpreted with a transsexual slant, as 'evidence' of femininity, to pad out a very thin and unconvincing track record. I have played down the significance to me of other events, which clearly shook me and are the real reason why I need to break with the old life.

Let’s put all this in another way, to make it all absolutely clear. The accusation is not that I am establishing a totally false and invented personal history, but that I am using real facts to illustrate this or that trans tendency, or presenting those facts with a trans colour or gloss to them. That I am doing this to give the impression of a continuous trans history going way back. And that ‘inconvenient’ past events that show me as completely ‘normal’, or perhaps suffering from something quite different from gender dysphoria, are being swept under the carpet and ignored.

Of course only I can now say what happened from day to day in my childhood, assuming that I can remember, because there is no-one left alive who can contradict me. Come forward a bit, there are still people around who knew me in some capacity, though not intimately from day to day, not until I got married early in 1983 (at age 30). My ex-wife W--- is in a position to give her own evidence about how I was from 1983 until 1991, and then from 1994 onwards my current partner M--- (or is it ex-partner? We still don’t really know what to say about that) can provide similar evidence. Looking at these dates, I think it is quite fair to say that I could invent anything I wanted about the first 30 years of my life, which must certainly be the key period if looking for early formative influences. There is precious little contemporary documentation for my schooldays, even fewer photographs. I still have the usual school reports, which speak of a quiet, well-behaved pupil who was not a leading light in anything, and on the whole academically undistinguished. But remember that I hated school, and resolved to get through it by keeping my head down and having as little involvement as possible - so nobody who taught me knew me well. In any case, it would be simple enough to write an absolutely sensational and lying personal history that was perfectly consistent with these reports, and anything else, and yet still ticked all the right trans boxes.

Further, nobody in the world knows what was going on in my mind. Not my parents, not my ex-wife, not M---, nobody at all. Actually, this is rather disturbing when you think of it. We are all in a position to say, ‘Despite all appearances, I was a completely different person inside, and none of you ever knew.’ And that means that, given determination, one could insist on a totally alternative personal history that was kept hidden until now. Where lies credibility if that is possible?

It would have been noticed that when young I was inclined to be moody, silent and very secretive, and painfully awkward in social situations, although I got better once I left school and grew in confidence. But this isn’t saying much. Although young children are often a lot more frivolous and outgoing than I was, there are many who are not. And teenagers are notorious for being maddeningly strange and complicated. My Mum used to dismiss everything odd about me as a ‘phase’ that I was going through, something that I would ‘grow out of’. She was stout in asserting that. And so I believed it.

So, I have my version of events, and the benefit of hindsight to embellish them with. But I can’t ‘prove’ what I say about myself. I therefore don’t see any convincing way to rebut this particular accusation.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Accusation number 3 - I am deluded

It really is good for me to work through these Accusations. I’m already feeling much more robust philosophically about the process of transition. If you like, I’m mentally walking taller and with a firmer tread.  And I’m not losing sight of the basic facts that people go through transition because they would otherwise fall into a profound depression leading to madness; and that it’s driven by irrepressible feelings, and not by clever arguments.

The third Accusation went as follows:

I am at best sadly deluded. I am really a man, always was, and cannot change. The medical profession is conniving in a fraud. And any legal recognition or advantage I may get is based on a lie, a disgusting travesty of the plain truth. I’m caught up in an unnatural process and I must see that before it goes too far.

This is a tricky one. How can I say whether I’m deluded or not? If I were delusory, then I wouldn’t see things straight, and couldn’t see how fallen into error I might be. And I’m not sure whether abundant evidence of proper mental functionality could settle it. You know, examples of sound reasoning, mature assessment, decisions based on evidence rather than blind faith, wide general knowledge, and a life that encompasses all the usual aspects, lived competently and without gross eccentricities. I think I can claim all of that, but then there might be just this one corner of my thinking that is way out of kilter. A monomania that I am really female.

After all, it’s quite an assertion. And when first expressed I looked male, had been taken to be male from birth, had said male things in a male way, had at least some male attitudes, definitely possessed several male interests, and although not keen on sex, I had played the male role in sexual moments. There was precious little to be seen on the surface to suggest that, deep down, a struggle was going on. Any kind of struggle, let alone a male/female battle royal. I simply did not seem to be in turmoil. My assertion of femininity, when it came in 2008, was a bolt from the blue, a shock; and it was hard to believe it. It was easier to conclude that I was temporarily bereft of my wits.

Time has passed. I’m still coping very well with life in general, as this blog documents. If I had a monomania you would have expected it to take over my life by now, and to have dragged me down into a make-believe world of pure fantasy. It hasn’t happened. I’m still taking a keen interest in current affairs, good food, nice holidays, my friends and neighbours, village affairs, the price of diesel for Fiona, and the time of day. I haven’t floated off into some hazy dream world. I’m focussed and organised, with a shopping list on the go, and no unpaid bills. I do ordinary, down-to-earth things.

I spent most of today, for instance, tidying up the garden at the Cottage while my friendly tree surgeon tamed the somewhat overgrown boundary hedges. Not the sort of thing I would do if I thought I were Napoleon and above all that. There I was, in girly top, cropped trousers and flats, albeit somewhat covered in bush clippings, and kitted out in oversized gardening gloves, chatting at intervals with the tree surgeon about property ventures, and making considered decisions on just how much to trim the hedge here and there. He didn’t seem to notice anything delusory or odd about my conversation. And he seemed perfectly comfortable with my appearance.

All right then. I’ve made my case for not being mad. I won't linger on the 'can never be anything other than a man' jibe - when dealing with the previous two Accusations I surely said enough to show that someone born female but stuck with a male body really can undergo a meaningful transformation.

What about the attitude of the medical profession? Are they conniving at a fraud? Do they ensnare people in an unnatural process? They do not behave as if they do. I’m speaking of that part of the profession that specialises in the care of transsexual persons - not some general practitioners, or some ordinary hospital staff, who may be antagonistic towards trans women. The surgeons I heard speak recently in London, the staff I met at the private Brighton Nuffield Hospital, the staff I met at the NHS Charing Cross Gender Clinic and the Riverside Wing of the NHS Charing Cross Hospital, all seemed entirely sincere and committed. There was no feeling that that they were doing anything that they didn’t believe in.

Of course there is the money angle. We can imagine the mercenary professional who cynically exploits his patients, or in the case of the NHS, the state funding. I dare say that there must be medical people who are in it simply for the money, and just give any patient who can afford it exactly what they want, and if possible more than they want. Still, trans persons are not noted for being rich. Some have resources; many do not. I’d say that if a professional medic wants to be quite certain of making a fortune, it would be best to avoid trans work, and concentrate on bread-and-butter cosmetic surgery for affluent natal women. There are many more of them around.

As for legal recognition (including a Gender Recognition Certificate in the UK), I think my defence on ‘claiming womanhood’ covers that well enough. Briefly, anyone who transitions says goodbye to their old public gender, and cannot return. They are no longer ‘men’ in any practical sense. They need proper status and proper protection. So there is nothing odious about getting legal recognition - female markers on passports, for instance - in their new public gender. And if they get some financial advantage from doing so - a state pension earlier than otherwise, say - then that is just something that happens. Surely nobody would ever deliberately go through transition merely to get a quicker or larger handout from the state? Or am I deluded?

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Accusation number 2 - My claim to womanhood is an insult to real women

And now on to Accusation number 2, which was:

I have no right to claim 'womanhood' because I have never had periods, never (even potentially) had the experiences of pregnancy and giving birth. These things, which women suffer, are the essential capabilities that distinguish women from men. I cannot have a child and never could, and to claim womanhood in any form is an insult to real women and a mockery of their role as mothers and all the pain involved. Indeed, my attitude makes all women seethe with anger. How dare I presume to claim any such thing. Even a lesser claim, that I am simply an undefined female, is a palpable falsehood, and a slap in the face of every woman.

Let me assert at the outset that someone who is transitioning is leaving behind manhood. They are no longer in the world of men. They have resigned from the club. The bonds, if there were ever any, are now broken, and there is no going back or temporary re-admission if things are not going well. I can’t claim to know or understand men deeply (that sounds very odd I know; however, you may see what I mean), but I reckon they would cry ‘foul!’ if you, the renegade, pleaded to come back. You have put yourself beyond the pale, you are apostate. From observation, a lot of men clearly think that you have betrayed the male world, let the side down, and now that you’ve made your bed you must bloody well lie in it without complaint. They don’t respect you anymore. They don’t want you. You’re just a castrated eunuch now. Or if you’re really a woman, then behave like one. Otherwise stay away.

Given this scenario, where can a trans woman go except into the female camp, and hope for a welcome? She wants to be there anyway, welcome or not.

The way society is presently arranged, there is no middle place. And it would be inhumane, and against all the intentions of a civilised society, to wilfully isolate an individual. So I have to say to any ‘real’ woman - a ‘natal woman’ in trans parlance - that having quitted the male house, with the door slammed behind me and the key taken from me, it is entirely proper for me to knock on your door, the female door, and be let in. Yes, I want to claim womanhood, and I must. Rather like a stateless refugee must claim asylum in another country. Except that in this scenario there are only two countries, and if refused entry to both then I have nowhere else to go. My blood really will be on your hands if you bar my way in. I am not a spy. I have no agenda to take over and rule. I am serious and useful and worthwhile, and most definitely your ally and friend.

What about the suffering of women? There seems to be a bit of doublethink here. Nearly all the women I’ve ever spoken to acknowledge the biological urge to make a family. They may cringe at the natural means to this end, but when it comes to it go ahead if the opportunity presents, and I’d say that they find a lot to enjoy, at least while the kids are young and their role as mother is satisfyingly hands-on. On the other side of the coin are the bad periods, the dire pain of childbirth, and the fatigue of rearing a child. But I’m in no doubt that, on the whole, women are glad to have their children, and are quite prepared to put up with the discomforts. And witness the anguish of women who cannot naturally have a child. They are not relieved to be let off all the trouble and pain; they are driven to seek it as the price of becoming a mother. All this seems to put the less enjoyable aspects into perspective.

Most women do give birth to children at some time in their lives. But is the mother role essential to womanhood? I’d say not. What about those women who never have children, either from choice or circumstance or bodily defect? Are they excluded from womanhood? Of course not. What about artificially-created women, then, who have bodily defects that also prevent them having children? Is it right to exclude them from womanhood? Remember, socially they are not men anymore, and their body chemistry, outward appearance, sexual capability, behaviour, and aspirations are all female. Shouldn’t they have womanhood too?

Why does my claiming womanhood mock ‘real’ woman? I am not myself poking fun at women or lampooning them. Quite the contrary. I am turning myself into a female person because that it how I will be most comfortable. I want to be as ‘authentic’ as I can be. So authentic, that the sort of man who does mock women will mock me also. I admire women; I think that becoming a woman is one of the finest ambitions I could have, and I’m so glad that I yearn to be one. This shouldn't generate anger. I won’t enjoy some of the satisfactions that a woman commonly enjoys, partly because I’m now too old, partly because my anatomy won’t permit it. But I’m glad I can go most of the way. Being a constructed woman isn’t perfect, and I wish I’d been born a woman; but it’s not an insulting falsehood, and it’s a lot better than being permanently unhappy as a male.

I hope that any natal woman reading this senses that the last thing I’d want is for her to feel slapped in the face. I acknowledge whatever pains she might have experienced. I do however hope that she realises that, albeit late in the day, I will be in line for the kind of social stick that she gets, and maybe some of the heartache. Plus potential risks and complications that she won’t ever have: the risks of injury or death from transphobia, for example. It’s no laughing matter, any of it.

Accusation number 1 - Eternally male in body, thought and emotion

Let's begin this series of posts with the first Accusation listed in my post Deeper Problems on 30 August 2010.

Do keep in mind that this is for me. I am working through each of the Accusations with the intention of settling my own mind on them, if that is possible. I'm not seeking anyone's agreement or endorsement. By all means comment if you think I've erred badly, or perhaps on the other hand managed to express exactly what you feel, but really no comment is needed. I don't think I'll have anything original to say, and if you want to ignore my blog for the next couple of weeks, that's fine!

This was the first Accusation.

I cannot ever 'be a woman' in a physical sense because I lack the proper internal anatomy, including a womb and ovaries. A surgically-created vagina, however realistic, does not count. It’s an appalling idea anyway, which I will regret further down the line. Nor do any of the hormone-induced changes such as smooth skin and breasts count. Nor can I claim to have the emotions and thinking-patterns of a woman because I lack the correct brain tissue and neural connections, and am stuck with a typical man’s brain.

I entirely agree that I have started with a male body, and that no amount of surgery can alter the male origin. Cut me where you like, you will find male flesh and bone. On the other hand, chemically things have altered. I think my internal organs may have become somewhat feminised. For instance, my liver may not be able to tolerate alcohol to the same extent that it used to. My body fat distribution, and body hair growth, have both been significantly changed. And I have grown small breasts. I am starting to look well feminised, if not yet convincingly female. But you can see where it will end, and so far as appearance will go, nobody should be able to recognise me as a man in two years' time. I'd assert even now that you won't find a 58 year old man who looks like me! 

There is endless variety in how male humans can look.

Men are typically tall, muscular, strongly-built. But if there had been something non-standard with my original hormone balance, I might have looked girly and effeminate instead. I did actually have wider hips than usual, slightly smaller hands and feet than usual, and a better head of hair than men commonly enjoy. These were all down to natural genetic factors, the mix in me when I was conceived. And let's allow for the possibility of damage or modification in the womb. If the mix (and/or any modification) had been different, then my physical development would have been different. There is so much possible variation, and it is all perfectly natural.

Women too come in all shapes and sizes. Some women look quite masculine. Again, it all depends on the genetic mix when they were conceived. There is no standard form. Yes, all ordinary women have such things as two breasts, a vagina, a clitoris, a womb and ovaries. But otherwise there is a lot of overlap between the 'male' and 'female' configurations. Both sexes have arms, legs, eyes, brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines, and all the other usual body parts, and these make up most of the body, visible or not. Women usually have a lighter, more gracile build, are usually shorter, are usually less hairy, and are usually smoothed and rounded off in a characteristic way. In short they are (at least when young) slender and pretty. But it is often noted that in old age there is little to distinguish the outward appearance of  men and women.

So if I make myself strongly resemble a woman, that is, resemble any one of several broad physical models, and with of course a feminine voice and feminine behaviour to support the look, then for practical purposes I can move through society as 'a woman'. Approve of it or not, that's how I will be treated. And I don't have to show that I have the right internal bits to achieve that. Or the right chromosomes.

So far as I'm aware, nobody has run a test on my chromosomal makeup, but I expect that it's almost certainly the standard XY that ordinary male humans have. But there are some people, taken to be undoubtedly female, who have male-type chromosomes too. So I'd argue that chromosomes, although one of the strongest indicators of gender, do not determine your gender beyond all argument. And they certainly do not determine your outward appearance.

Onto the rightness of feminising surgery. Is it appalling? Or not so very different in nature from surgery that nobody would question?

There are many women threatened by cancer and other dire problems. Should they undergo surgery, even if it means the loss of a womb or breasts, those important signifiers of 'being a woman'? Surely yes, if it will save or improve their lives. It would be appalling to withhold it. And conversely, when stem-cell technology progresses, and substitute organs can be created to give functionality or appearance where none was before, should that be offered to a woman? Again, surely yes. And there are women who have birth defects that mean they lack certain of the crucial organs from birth, or at least their functionality is impaired from birth. If surgery and allied techniques can introduce or restore functionality and make them 'feel like proper women', ought it to be made available? Really, it's a no-brainer I should have thought. Yes, of course they must have that surgery.

And similarly with cosmetic surgery. If a woman is fretting over her small or oversized breasts, or her terrible nose, or the belly that won't go away, or her scrawny neck, or the eye bags, and her self-confidence suffers, is there any good reason or principle why she shouldn't have surgery to alleviate these things?

Switching to the position of a transsexual person, what is there about their position that should deny them the same sort of surgery? I would say: nothing at all. Such a person needs remedial surgery. There is the good point that the surgery is radical and irreversable and one must be sure. But surely anyone of intelligence, emotional stability and unclouded thinking, who is in touch with their own feelings and has experience of the world, ought to 'know' whether this is right for them. It has been put to me that I would be kissing goodbye to being a man forever. Perhaps this is where the word 'appalling' has most meaning in relation to the surgery. Well, if I felt male and wanted to stay that way, then having my genitalia transformed in some Nazi-style medical experiment would be horrible. But when you feel female and want your external appearance to match your self-perception, then such an operation, performed in a proper hospital by a specialist surgeon, with full nursing backup, is a different matter. Especially when you look at the ongoing benefits in the living out of  your preferred gender role. 

Finally the question of whether I can ever 'think like a woman' or 'have a woman's emotions'.

My intuition tells me that just living the life of a woman gradually affects your outlook and way of thinking. If you have to move about as a woman, speak to other people as a woman, make friends as a woman, and get drawn into the sort of things women do by other women who think you are one of them, then you are surely going to adopt the thinking patterns of a woman. I think it will happen unconsciously. Consider how one naturally absorbs the culture and customs and demeanour and attitudes of a particular school or college or club or workplace. You can't help conforming so that you fit in, and in doing so you drop your former or outsider ways. You embrace new thinking and impulses, and ways of doing things. It becomes 'second nature'.

So at some point, and I think it has already come, I will stop consciously 'acting my part' and 'remembering to behave correctly', and unconsciously just 'be' the person people take me for. My personality will be known and accepted. I'll have become predictable. People will be able to anticipate how I will be, and can include me in their invitations because they know my attitudes and likes and dislikes. They'll know how I think, and will be comfortable with it. I'd argue that being totally accepted into a women's group - the female neighbours you know, the women you see at the local store, the women at the office - is not possible unless you can acquire their female ways of thinking. 

And I have some evidence already that over time you really do shift into female ways. For instance, a baby's cry used to trigger annoyance in my mind. It sounded harsh and I wanted to be elsewhere. Nowadays, inexplicably, it doesn't sound harsh at all. It just makes my head turn to see where the child is, and find out what may be wrong. I don't want to run away, I feel drawn. Mind you, I'm always glad that I don't need to intervene personally! If I had to, a lost or abandoned child perhaps, I really wouldn't know offhand what best to do, although I suspect that I would instinctively do the right thing. And maybe, since the welfare of all children must surely be a basic concern of both sexes, this really isn't evidence at all of any mother instinct coming to the fore - meaning that most men would also instinctively do the right thing. But it seems like a new thing in my life. I do feel that one day I shall be 'the woman on the spot', the safe person that stricken children will run to, as they would to any woman. I now feel mentally prepared to rise that moment at any time. That's a huge change for me.

What about my brain, anyway? Doesn't it acquire fresh internal connections that overlay (though perhaps never displace) the old male ones? If all that is a myth, does it matter? I'd argue that lacking a brain scan that shows a typical woman's brain activity is rather like considering a chromosome test that reveals you are, after all, XY and not XX. It's a big so what. I think your actual personality and impulses mean much more. I was always noted for having a mild, easy-going, gentle, amiable, kind, comfortable nature. It got a bit tetchy as I got older (guess why), and I sometimes went into panic mode over very little, but on the whole I was a reliable, steady person who did not make waves and was very helpful and supportive. Certainly in my workplace I was almost universally regarded as Mr Nice Guy, Mr Co-operative, even if I lacked the competitiveness and ruthlessness and nous to become an ace investigator. Has any of the old niceness gone? I'd say it's had to take a back seat in some ways,  but basically 'no'. Have I acquired new emotions and mental abilities that indicate I'm using both lobes of my brain to the full? No evidence of it. Would I mind submitting to a test at a teaching hospital, to settle this? Not at all. Because I don't think it would be conclusive. And a brain scan that 'proved' I was a woman wouldn't instantly make me a more caring person, either.

Reading all the above, I don't think a 'woman' is speaking, but someone who is in transition from one state to another. But I expect to make that transition successfully, and fall completely into a female pattern of thinking and behaviour. And whether it's the hormones, or my subconscious coming out, I expect to become impulsive in many ways that have a feminine flavour to them. Like when in 2007, in New Zealand, carried away by the moment, I impulsively embraced people I hadn't seen for the best part of twenty years. Both sexes. I was told that embracing the men 'looked a bit gay'. That set me thinking I might be, even though there was no gay history. A year later I found a different explanation.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Deeper Problems 2

Towards the end of my original 'Deeper Problems' post on 30 August I listed five 'accusations' that I'd need to sort out in my mind in the run-up to surgery. I got eight comments, which I thought was really sweet and supportive. I don't want to 'milk' this subject area too much, but it struck me afterwards that following my visit to Dr Curtis on 17 September I will have to be able to pass a psychological assessment quite soon, maybe only three weeks ahead, and so it becomes urgent to address these 'accusations' without delay.

With apologies then (because everyone has to face up to this stuff, and there's nothing very fresh to say about it) I will be writing my 'defence' in a series of forthcoming posts. The posts will be mainly for myself, a way of working through these anti-transition points one by one, and I really need to do it. I hope to end up with my feelings about them well sorted and understood. That should help me respond coherently to any professional wanting to assess my mental attitudes. Although quite honestly I don't anticipate surgery being refused because of an attitude problem.

I won't be offended if you click away bored!

There were, as I say, five anti-transition points on my list:
1. I was born male, and no surgery can ever alter that; nor can I ever have a woman's mentality.
2. Claiming womanhood is an insult to all natal women.
3. I am deluded, and the medical world is just pandering to me.
4. I am adapting past events to create a false trans history.
5. I am destroying the lovely person I used to be.

I now think I should address seven more points:
6. I have destroyed other people's happiness.
7. Transition surgery is no more than self-mutilation.
8. My transitioning is just a whim, a temporary enthusiasm that will pass.
9. If not a mere whim, then a project to occupy my mind in retirement.
10. It's a convenient way to permanently banish from my life certain people I've never liked.
11. Knowing my hatred of convention, it's the ultimate defiant gesture.
12. Artificially-created trans people are not in the true image of God, and are in the realm of Frankenstein's monster - basically outcasts, who are nothing, and cannot have the solace and divine protection that the faithful and right-thinking can expect. And indeed deserve persecution.

I'm not a religious person, and so I'm personally indifferent to the last point, except for the threat of active persecution, but some listen to what their church has to say about transsexual people, and I may have to contend with an argument in this area sooner or later. Nobody in my circle is an intolerant fundamentalist, but I could bump into someone like that out in the street at any time. And for 'church' and 'religion' read any system of belief which excludes those who are regarded as deviant.

I'm not going to start here and now: it's a lovely sunny day, and R--- and I are going to walk along the high cliffs from Birling Gap to Beachy Head and back this afternoon. In glam walking togs, of course!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Danger in lonely spots

A couple of afternoons ago, I drove north-west, and went walking in the Surrey Hills.

For those who don't know the area, Surrey is the small county that fringes the south side of London. Much of it is built up. But an awful lot is wooded and secluded, especially along the North Downs and atop the hilly outliers. The Surrey Hills are such an outlier. They not only contain the highest point in Surrey (Leith Hill) but from them you can get beautiful views to the south, over the low-lying Weald. On a clear day you can see as far as the South Downs, although the village I live in will always be lost in the haze. Beyond the South Downs is the sea. It isn't hard to imagine how that southward view might have looked 2,000 years ago, when the entire south-east of England was one huge forest, muddy and impenetrable. John Wyndham in his sci-fi novel The Day of the Triffids made the same observation at a late stage of the book, looking across the western Weald from the Pulborough area, when the main character reflects on the returning of the world to its natural state as the old roads deteriorate, and swollen rivers overflow into marshy meadows, and unchecked greenery takes over. And how at night the world was now dark and unlit and primordial and frightening.

Perhaps not comfortable thoughts when walking on your own, even on a sunny afternoon!

I parked first near a viewpoint in Winterfold (A bit north-west of Ewhurst) called Lord Justice James' Seat. I discovered this spot back in the early 1990s, when, having returned to Dorking from London on the train, I'd drive out to here along some of Surrey's prettiest 'sunken lanes', and would unwind in the refreshing breeze for an hour before going home. I don't know who Lord Justice James was. There are two possibilities: William Milbourne James (1807-1881) who I think was the likeliest, and Sir Arthur Evan James (1916-1976), who tried the Great Train Robbers, but who had no obvious connection with this part of the country. The Seat itself was originally a stout tree trunk shaped to form a place to sit and admire the view, and had a carved inscription. But over the years bad weather and general wear and tear destroyed it. There is now an ordinary stout bench there. And when I turned up, two lovers. I left them to it and strolled down the path to the west.

I was dressed in a pink top, cropped jeans, and flats. It was quite warm, so I carried nothing else except my handbag and a stick. As I went on, I was glad of that stick. A woman and a child passed me jogging, but then I was all alone, and it got a bit creepy to tell the truth. After twenty minutes I was on a path strewn with fallen trees and nowhere to run if anybody jumped on me. I heard a man idly whistling somewhere ahead. It wasn't the whistle you'd make to a dog. It was the whistle of Someone Hanging About Waiting For A Hapless Victim. Perhaps even the whistle of a Mad Axeman. I turned about and headed back. The stick felt useless.

Back at the deserted car park, I sank with huge relief into Fiona and locked the doors at once.

Then I moved on to another car park. It was more open. I felt reassured, and made myself a cup of tea from a flask. There was a fine view from the driver's seat.

But I still locked myself in. Time passed. The sun got weaker and the surrounding woods seemed a bit more forbidding than they had been.

Time to go. I didn't get out of the car again, just in case. I was very glad to be on the move again and heading home.

What is the conclusion? That I have too much imagination? That I'm too suspicious? That I'm basically afraid of lonely places? Well, I used to roam woods like this on my own summer and winter, thinking nothing of it. But not now, at least not without some very careful thought. I feel too vulnerable.

One of the mental effects of feminisation, I suppose. Strength gone, can't fight back effectively, can't even run far, potential murder case. I'll have to work hard on this one, or I shall become too afraid to stray out of a shopping mall.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Welcome to the world of (older) women - my first breast scan

At 10.00am today, just over an hour ago, I went into the mobile scanning unit in Burgess Hill. It was rather nice inside, and having checked in with the brisk lady at the reception desk, and handed over my green questionnaire form, and confirmed which doctors' practice I attended, and removed my bra, I obediently proceeded to the scanning room where another lady was in charge of a very hi-tech machine.

'I'm very small,' I said. 'That's no problem, we sometimes get men in here as well, you know,' she replied.

She fed a rather thick photographic plate into the machine, taped what looked like two microchips to it, adjusted it for height, positioned me so that my left breast would be held between two flat surfaces, and then brought these together so that the breast was squashed between them. It wasn't more than a bit uncomfortable, and it didn't hurt. Then the X-ray was taken - just a few seconds - and the pressure was relaxed. The same then for the right breast, and finally a sideways-on X-ray which didn't involve clamping. Then the show was over. I was going to get a letter in two weeks or so, to tell me the result. I dressed, said a few words to the woman waiting to be done next, said goodbye to the reception lady, and that was that. All inside quarter of an hour.

Glad to have it over, but really there was nothing to get nervous about. It was quick, very efficiently handled, and so far as I was concerned, pain-free. There was no lingering sensation in either breast.

I thought I had a speculative look from both of the ladies at the unit - perhaps the NHS record available to them mentioned that I was transsexual, although somehow I thought not (because for instance they had to confirm which practice I attended). So it must have been my imagination. Perhaps they looked speculatively at all the ladies who came for a screening: who might have cancer? Yes, I expect it was my imagination. After all, this was the very first exposure of my breasts to anyone, and I was feeling a bit self-conscious about it.

Assuming I'm all clear, there'll be another screening in three years' time, and then on and on until I'm at least 73.

Welcome to the world of women!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Farewell, country cottage?

Yesterday I accepted the offer - the only offer - received nearly two weeks ago on my old home. The legal business of pushing the sale to completion now begins. Probably two or three months of nail-biting lie ahead until the exchange of contracts. The buyers might easily back out, although they seem keen. If they don't, and it all goes through, then I can celebrate. My monthly outgoings will be slashed, just like suddenly having £9,000 a year added to my pension. And money that I once had in the bank, earning very good interest, will now return there. Except that the current interest rate is rubbish, and I will be £100,000 short. That's around $US150,000.

At least I will know exactly where I stand, and can plan accordingly. I'm never happy being in any kind of limbo, and the sale of this house has been going on for much, much too long. So emotionally I would feel in a better place even if the financial loss were greater. Perhaps even if total.

Not that I'm being at all blase about that £100,000. I think I do know the value of money, and what it can buy, what it can achieve. My £100,000 would represent these things to me:

# 19 years worth of state pension for a single person.
# Some 25 years of ordinary foodstuffs and household groceries at present prices.
# Some 25 years of diesel fuel for my car at present prices.
# 4,000 reasonably nice meals out for one - that's around 40 years worth at two such meals per week.
# All the ordinary costs of caravanning in the UK (site fees and annual servicing) for 100 years.
# 10 two-month touring holidays in New Zealand. Enough for the next 30 years if going out there every third year.
# 10 top-spec SLR cameras, each complete with three of the manufacturer's best lenses.
# The cost of replacing Fiona twice over to the same spec or better.
# The cost of two major extensions to my house (the one I now live in). Or five fabulous makeovers.

I'm guessing at the cost, but if I ever made a grand philanthropic gesture, my lost £100,000 might provide clean water and basic sanitation for several remote third-world villages, or fund some medical initiative in those parts for a year. Except that I would be too selfish to do it - at least I think I would be. Sigh.