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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sweet Mnemosyne, 'tis thou hast ravished me

I feel quite strongly that one major stage of transition is coming to a close.
It would seem likely that this marks the end of 'looking glass' changes relating to conscious/ unconcious permutations.
I don't mean such terms as any kind of engagement with psycho-analysis, but rather with  everyday experience of consciousness. For most of us our self experience is of the eventualities of conscious engagement with information processing and with those which come from processes obscure to our purview. That's the only distinction I'm making .
For myself, my experience of gender change has been a transformation starting at the frameworks of arousal and perception, running through the changed possibilities of processing and finally coming at last in force to memory.
On a more basic level, the process is one of hormones and the plasticity of neurology combining to move towards a female norm.  With memory having such a strong gender dimorphic nature in terms of variant locations of the amygdala being used, it's likely to be one of the last to fall into line(?).
The last time I wrote about memory was
That still applies, in that there's a distance. I'm no longer quite so sure about how different I am in that respect compared to other trans people. Sometimes wonder whether it's simply a more gradual process with others as hormonal change thoroughly affects them.
In other ways, though, memory is really very changed in a process I've been aware of for the last year and a half.
And it seems very atypical for anything to do with the aging process.
The most obvious phenomenon is an increase in detail. Every memory I encounter seems more vivid, more detailed than before. It makes no difference whether this is memory from before or after hormonal perception related effects, something I find hugely significant and will write more of at a later date.
And of course there's also a rise in the number of memories easily accessible. It's very difficult to quantify but I'd say between 10 and 30 times as many, leaning more to the latter figure. Talking to cis woman friends and a couple of times the notion of memory as a burden came up. I don't experience that yet but can definitely understand it. Love the way it also adds to both the motivation and richness in female/female life exchange meetings.
Retrieval itself, as a process, is also very changed. As a man it felt far more like using a search engine than now. Memories were organised far more in terms of placement within an abstract model of the world or its projected structure. It is something that makes me rather more scatty. Whereas before I'd tell myself to, say, remember something in the morning because it's necessary to eventually complete x or y with a fair confidence, now, unless x and y are visible and quite personal it doesn't always work.
Example. Someone asked me where a mutual friend lived. Didn't remember the address offhand and started to answer but very aware of a variety of memories clustered together and immediately accessible. Could picture the london A-Z clearly, the page I'd last looked at to get there 6 months before. Which the tube stop was, getting off the platform, getting on to the Finchley road and quickly turning off it, a restaurant about 12 doors along and parts of it's window display, a sleeping policeman, the slightly overgrown hedges of a side street as I turned right and the 5 or 6 blocks before the house and the scents and... It took an effort to concentrate on exactly what I'd actually say in answer. Before it would be name of tube stop, directions left, quick left again and the first main right, about 10 minutes walk, without even thinking.
Perhaps this is actually an intermediate stage and that retrieval will get more efficient the more used to it I get. Or it could be that it's more a question of getting used the that extra level of depth. Maybe also a coming in to focus.
The tie to personal narrative is very strong. Going back to specific memories gives a sheaf of others to a far greater extent than before.
Example. Forgetting my pin number at the bank, remembering a couple of digits but not all of it, to mild embarassment. Talked to someone about it later, mentioning that I was in the middle of a post on memory and she actually thought that might have something to do with it. Don't really agree much with that in this instance but can understand the feeling of memories now tied down by a number of associations rather than riveted by a more focussed placement that might be testosterone typical.
Recently saw a study on prosody helping fix memories for women, the rhythm and tone of the words themselves as factors. I suppose that ties in to the same notion.
But mainly I see the example as more related to mental rehearsal. Undoubtedly I spend far less time in the successive approximations and conditional constructions that typified my male consciousness.But when I used to be there it had a benefit of rehearsing the future, of naturally being armed with rehearsed knowledge of what was needed/expected And in the process do something which deepens channels of retrieval for the associated variables. In thinking of going to the bank I'd be brushing up against the necessity of remembering my pin number, my actions being part of an optimistically predicted set of events in which I managed perfect recall of my pin number and consummate a financial transaction.So, without that rehearsal, memories aren't readied in the same way and a consequent forgetfullness can easily be fallen into.
Is this a long winded way of saying I'm getting to be a bit of a ditz ? No, I think, and / or hope, that the processes of memory are finally coming fully into line.It's a question of balance.
I've never been one for spending much time thinking about the past. Don't take photos, never very much liked reminiscing, though for other reasons now.Thats changed somewhat, if only to the extent that I often want to try it out. My earliest memory of being about 18 months old  is, when I return to it, more detailed with colours and scents. Have two memories that I've chosen to come back to and try and see whether I can remember more - meeting someone 5 years ago and a college seminar on the axiom of choice from the seventies. So far, after about half a dozen tries, there's always more details to be made out.
It feels somewhat like a temptation I should ration, not least because I'm so rarely 'there' in older memories apart from a sensory bundle. 5 years ago and my own state is more clearly recalled but it's almost like a dissociated procession of images, a distantly viewed movie.
Because, I suppose, the joys of this sea change include living in a world grown so full of the lushest ambiguities, the capability of such finer distinctions, compared to what once was. And so much of that comes from the illumination of memory.
More prosaicly it's about memory becoming even worse in terms of everyday sometimes critical stuff, whilst having a wonderful garden of the past to work. But it is the past, only the past, and perhaps an overindulgence for my newly 17 year old heart. My 7 / 17 / 61 birthday party comes at the weekend, something I absolutely won't forget about before, and hopefully, for good reasons, not after either.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

10 things I wish I hadn't known about before transition.

 I've had a very different and probably more supported transition than many other people and would make it clear that this list is strictly from a personal perspective. Others may find these things far more useful than I. 'Know one transsexual know one transsexual'.                                                                                                                                                 
1. The 'be prepared to lose everything' one. Whilst I can agree totally with the sentiment I do have a problem with the way it's put over that the major things are family, friends and sexual orientation that are at risk.
If I have to think of one thing that I really wish I still had, it's none of those. It's banter. I really used to love male/male banter. Losing that was very difficult, in part because it was so unexpected but also so inevitable, given the change from testosterone mediation of arousal. Or more simply not getting that boost to general awareness that comes from simulated challenge amongst males, and not, therefore, to have the slightest desire to simulate aggression to continue that behaviour. But that dance of words I do miss.

2. The 'it's the hardest thing you'll ever do' one. The impression is that superhuman effort against heavy odds may well be necessary. And again the focus is on the outside world and it's acknowledgement of our being in our gender. It sets up a a presumption of hostility there that I find an unwanted barrier in itself. For the most part I've encountered acceptance and often a shared excitement in talking me through my adolescence.

3. The 'it's the hardest thing you'll ever do' one, again. The hardest parts for me were the parts where I didn't have agency. Pms can be difficult and periods, in so far as what happens to me emotionally about every month equates to such, have occasionally provided absolutely poisonous depressions. All the wonders of the new emotional world !
And then the times when internal adjustments needed to be made. A wave of sensitivity needing to be integrated and understood or a change in memory or sexuality or whatever.*

*Actually I do have one idea for helping the trans unemployment problem and recognising the efforts required to transition. Just give every trans person an earned Phd in gender studies after 3 years of rle. Because it truly is earned.

4.The 'maximum preparedness' one. I understood I really was female and needed to transition at the end of october and I had a fairly busy 2 month run-up to the new year during which I had to get female clothes, prepare to shave for the first time in about 40 years, learn something about makeup and everything from posture to voice. Prepared I was not. Of course my approach isn't necessarily desirable, but it is possible and I think it would have been a significant help to me to also be somewhat assured as to that. Needs must.

5.The 'I must have repressed it' one. It's not that I seriously ever considered this one but it has been a hypothesis I've kept alongside for far too long. Simply I'm a rather male woman born from a rather  female man by way of hormonal/neurological interraction. Because both of these things can change in small, but oh so significant, ways, over time, with me and others. Obviously there was a birth brain condition, otherwise this couldn't have happened, but that doesn't necessarily imply identity, repressed or otherwise.

6. Terfs and HBSers. I trust that's self explanatory.

7.The rules of presentation - the right things to wear, the right sounding voice,the right everything. I'm someone who has always lived in the heart of cities, chelsea and bayswater in london and now kreuzberg in berlin with intervals in köln, amsterdam and stockholm. I tend to think that most of the 'rules' about such things come mainly from a suburban mind set. I wear, like most of my cis friends, little makeup. I dress nearly entirely secondhand, and I live in an international community of friends. Our rules are extremely flexible, where they exist at all.
The best advice I've ever had about clothes came from a woman talking about how relieved she'd been to stop all that bullshit of wearing different outfits everyday. Words to live by. And not being concerned with the male gaze is liberating, though the butch/femme border I'm on is a narrow one.
With voice I'm profoundly happy not to have had vocal coaching.

8.The 'you start at sixteen again' one. I started at 10. I now identify as 16, though more properly 6,16 and 60. Soon enough it'll be maiden, mother, hag. I'm witchy enough for the latter, have enough daughter surrogates around to justify the middle one, and the first will hopefully be symbolically delivered surgically.

9. The 'passing' one. Someone misgendered me a few weeks ago. Basically because I still have a somewhat masculine face and at the time I was bundled up against the snow, and the guy hadn't seen or heard me. Does that happen to FAAB women ? Sure. At the start of transition I'd be distraught, now it's an annoyance. 'Passing' is a problematic goad that can stay well beyond it's usefulness.

10. The narrative. The one that talks about identity as something with no correlates, a mystic feeling rather than a rational identification of oneself as of a particular gender contrary to gross anatomical considerations. Because that would upset too many interests.
The narrative that centres the transsexual journey as the prime expression of being trans, with little rhyme or reason save to add the respectability and intelligibility of such a journey. The narrative that talks of a spectrum of condition to hold together a political grouping. The narrative with an implicit elitist structure. The one that doesn't account adequately for most of my gender literate friends. The tyranny of a fairy tale.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Assorted ghosts

In the window, prints and a copper hunting horn.
On top of the shelves. One buteo buteo (common buzzard) wings outstretched. A pair of brass oil lamps with glass shades and funnels and a pair of decorated edwardian chamber pots. Another buteo buteo perched over the entrance to the back room. A mason's ironware vase, another vase with flower decorations by my milliner grandmother, a set of encyclopedia britannica and a pink and black deco clock.
In the book / display cabinet opposite.An early art deco clock with dancing figures and an art nouveau bronze vase and a pottery pumpkin. A brass krishna,an art nouveau print, two victorian serving plates, a small studio teapot, a 19thC bicycle light, some repro scrimshaw, a staffordshire flatback and a strawberry shaped candle, for some reason or other. And a 19thC print, an 18thC chinese plate and other assorted pottery, a flat iron,a stoppered glass bottle, a brownie camera and a brick sized hunk of polished labradorite. And a bubblegum dispenser, an irridescent glass bowl,small deco teapot and cup,a printers block with the imprint of IT magazine, a jar of spectacles, a top hat with chess pieces inside, a photo book of the shop, various prints and a large b/w photo of the old me with a twenty year old blonde girl slung over his shoulder.
In the cabinet by the door a large plastic wonderfully kitsch figure of lakshmi with light and a fountain built in, and a printers metal photo of Beckett.
On the wall by the stairs behind my desk a number of pages from an already broken 19thC book on the history of illustrated manuscripts framed in plain glass.
Centre a large copper light fitting,early edwardian with torchere and lots of glass beading.
And then there are the books, the shelves, and the furniture I helped design, all in blues and reds and circus regency style.
Thats the front room of the shop,a haunt of my narrative memory.
So every day I can choose to see these bright ghosts it conjures around me.Finding the labradorite at the pavilion at hanovers world fair, getting the bicycle lamp from a little antique shop near Theresienstadt concentration camp on the way to Prague, being given the krishna by my second wife, buying the flatback from a small country auction,the blonde girl and I lovers of a sort and central figures in a photo book project, and so many others.On the other hand most come with memories of that different time when I was a rather different animal. That doesn't greatly trouble me now, but it's at a remove. When I remember now, memory has far more sensory details going back all my life, not just the last 4 years. Most of the objects now come with their own more detailed scenarios of purchase or reminders of other lives to this. But with those times before 4 years, it's kind of distanced, phantasmagoric, because I no longer have that much connection with the guy I was. Like looking through someone elses magic lantern eyes.*
By now there's a similar effect about the first year or so too, back in the early stages of transition. Looking back, from my lofty 16 year old self, on that awesome 10 year old I was that my hopes and desires are still founded on.
With the books there are so many reappraisals, so many reaquaintances to make. I am in so many relationships with them but it's complicated, to coin a phrase.
Travelled back to London recently and there, and here in Berlin too, meeting a few old friends from the dim and distant. By now I suppose all the women friends bar a couple from before have more or less made up their minds about what kind of animal I am. All treat me a female. All may have some reservations, slight or, in a couple of cases, amounting to outright denial, but most come as far as they're able, and that's most of the way and good enough for me. Though for that couple, being their ghost is still a little un nerving .There's always that wave of open acceptance to cherish from most though and really can't imagine any conversational subjects I don't share with them. And with newer ones they tend to have me fixed as a woman before they might find me to be trans so things are far far simpler.
Men are rather different. Older friends sometimes seem towant to catch a glimpse of that ghost of an older self peering out. Which is normal, but trying at times. And there's the awkwardness always of knowing what is expected of you as an old friend and absolutely not delivering on it and instead trying to substitute different output. Newer guy friends are in many ways more supportive. I do think men possibly are more appreciative of how complicated, how much work actually is involved in transition. It's guys who inevitably come up with the question 'and are you really happy now?' at the end of coming out stories,with well meant sympathy. Guys here happily do volunteer for stuff more, and actually have had more guys telling me how outraged they were at Julie Burchill than women, though several of both. Sweet but never was one for guys.
And I suppose there is additionally something spectral about those ways of looking at people. My life doesn't have very much of a trans component, don't think about passing anymore or learning the very basics of womanhood. Apart from surgery and tidying up some hair and final paperwork don't intend any further acts of transition, though obviously it's a lifetime process internally.
Still don't know about how I really want to meet the male gaze. Do mildly cheat it I suppose by apparently doing a librarian look, where a ghost of masculinity is part of the stereotype. But then I suppose I am a librarian much of the time anyway.
And there's the ghost at the party role that I'm vacating. Most of my life is spent in the shop as my living room and a small flat in the house above, and haven't had a lot to do with the queer or trans worlds, except for people passing through the place. Which is now changing. In less than three weeks the first womens queer / trans sunday starts. I'll be doing my usual friday cooking thing and serving at 2 and there'll be a vegan meal at 7 and I'm going to be highly invested in the results. We've got about 50 people interested and sending out messages to Ladyfest and queer berlin sites this week. The hope is a mix of social and serious, and of the different groups. Basically cis men and straight women are by invitation only, but hopefully not unwelcome for that. Otherwise lbtiqqaa/quiltba .
Like all groups here it'll be english language so there'll likely be predominantly american.  The trans crowd I'm not sure on. I've heard that a few times an independent e/l group of trans women has been mooted so hopefully some will come and try the place out. The queer feminist vegan sex shop around the corner has a lot of english speaking people passing through and we could maybe cooperate on some things. Most of my queer friends say it could be a real addition to the scene. There are many lesbian and queer hangouts and much english speaking but mainly bars and party places, unlike the gay scene where it's large enough to have more conversational venues. And I'll happily put energy into a queer reading group here, I know a couple of people who'd go for some activist things, not sure if there's a zine interest maybe, could link with the queer film archive using the back room beamer,etc etc.All the possibilities and, in Tartakower's words, all the mistakes waiting to be made.
*Has anyone out there read R.A.Lafferty's story 'through other eyes' ? Huge recommend for transition analogy.

Do think that if you're trans there's that other ghost thing that you're more closely aquainted with than the normal cis person. The borders of the ghost in the machine, the

Monday, December 31, 2012

another year

Looking back, it's been a good year overall.
Some major events - having a solid maybe for surgery, dealing with family problems, and lots of good meetings and consequent friendships ; documentary making progress, a couple of nice profiles published, shop book coming out in a few months after this years competition ran fairly successfully, well over a thousand meals cooked, several thousand quiz questions formulated and asked, and charity status in the works.
More important, maybe, an absence of things. Health problems persist but nothing truly problematic, walking perfectly normally in winter - enough to go out in the snow to my first LGBT demo. After a year or more of shocking those people I out myself to, I'm willing to believe I don't really have much difficulty passing. Makes for a more normal life, if anything about my life can be so called. And whilst I still think a lot about gender it isn't particularly a personal thing.
Of course that won't last. It's not that I'm unsettled in my binary gender identity, far from it. But the presentational/iterative aspects in queer terms haven't particularly been a concern so far. Next year I'll be having a broadly female queer/trans* sunday every month and probably other events too with film, discussion etc etc. I really don't have a lot of time to go out, so it's much easier if I bring a scene here instead. There are some enthusiastic queer women involved, who are also normal bookshop community people, and whilst there is a large queer/trans* scene in Berlin, the kind of laid back english language non cis male thing we're trying for should cover an existing gap.
For myself amongst other things it's a chance to explore myself as part of a community, at least in so far as orientation goes.  I am concentrating a lot less on what it means to be a trans woman and far more on what it means to be a queer one, at present.
Am taking on a number of other things, a spoken word monthly reading event, a straight sunday roast and a tea and philosophy day, as well as a couple of interns to help keep the place going. And before that all starts, in february, I'm taking holidays. One week of family, London friends and a shoot for an animation project, then a 10 day vacation in Berlin, actually going out to a gallery, event, club, or whatever a couple of times a day.
And before that I'm having my (second adolescence ) 16th birthday on new years eve, a symbolic transformation from naive introspective jailbait to something more hard edged, maiden to mother stuff when hopefully the pink sparkly unicorn will descend from the heavens and enlighten me as to how the rest of this womanhood thing goes. Or maybe not. Music will be goth, riot grrrl, classic 60's with a bit of east coast bias and baroque. And there will be fireworks. I will be wearing my red silk 40's style dress with red leather ankle boots and vambraces.
And the best of new year wishes for you all .

Saturday, October 6, 2012

something sweet

About a month ago I had an interview for the 'Kreuzberger chronik'. It's a small giveaway thing that goes into bars and shops in the local area, has been going for years and is put out as primarily a labour of love, and hence has a lot of credibility with the residents of the neighbourhood. Certainly I felt a lot of satisfaction in featuring in it, a kind of local acceptance. Did sort of wonder at the time whether it would focus attention on me in a good or bad way, since it does talk a little about me being trans.
So I'm sitting at my desk last monday, half an hour before closing and this german guy comes in. He looks around the shop for a couple of minutes, asks, in a heavy accent whether all the books are in english, and then sits himself down on a seat in front of the desk.
He reaches into a pocket and takes out a copy of the Kreuzberger chronik, with a picture of me on the cover, and asks, somewhat superfluously, if it was of me.
I confirmed it and then he asked me whether I was a transsexual.
Now the guy was quite large with one of those kobold kind of faces one sometimes sees especially on german guys from the south, in his fifties, and overall a little intimidating, so my thoughts did go to the pepper spray I keep within reach as I answered that yes, I was transsexual.
Leaning closer he asked whether or not I'd had 'the operation'.
Getting aware by the smell of wine that he wasn't entirely sober, I said no, not yet, and started to unostentatiously to fumble for my spray.
Nodding, he leaned even closer, looked into my eyes and said, 'I had mine 5 years ago'.
So we talked for about twenty minutes, with my halting german and his rusty english, and he told me something of his problems, how lonely (shades of every trans man I've ever met)  life could be, a difficult relationship he was in, etc. And at the end he said he'd see me in a while, and I said fine, I'd look forward to it and he left. Only to return 5 minutes later having been to the florist on the corner and give me the biggest cabbage rose I've ever seen.
Really sweet.
And thinking about it that that is one of the good things about being out and approachable here. Because there isn't so much casual space for post transition people my age in the queer /trans world. And I've had several drop by here who seem to enjoy an exchange of perspectives. Because however well transitioned you are, however stealth, as many are to some extent or another, there'll always be some things that can only be fully shared with another trans person, and it's only an extension of my normal role of proprietress of an english speaking oasis to fulfill that function.
Sweetly satisfying.

Friday, August 17, 2012

schrödinger's cut

At present am involved in finding out whether or not the outlook for surgery might have changed. Essentially that means whether I can go for anything more than an orchiectomy. It's difficult because what I'm likely to be faced with is either a direct 'no', or a 'not at the moment',or a yes but the odds, re serious complications, are x.
Living with cirrhosis means that you're automatically put in a 'no unnecessary surgery' category. When I broke my leg a couple of years back I was told that there was a high risk of not being able to walk too far without a lot of pain, in a few years time, if they didn't operate. They impressed on me that they still really didn't want to operate and were very relieved when I went along with them. Bad coagulation,and the fact that most pain killers are liver toxic in some degree are the minor problems.  The possibility of infection is one of the potentially fatal ones. On the other hand my readings have been better than previously, though the underlying condition persists, so from what I've heard there might be a small chance of being able to have GRS.
So questions as to whether I want / need surgery and how much of a risk I'm prepared to take are hovering about my consciousness at present
Insofar as I had thought about it before transition it was with an automatic 'of course' answer to the former. It felt dissappointing to realise that my body morphing didn't somehow just include that detail. But the problems of getting it seemed insurmountable at the time, so I've tried to block myself from thinking about it at all until now. Haven't had total success with this. It goes with the mixed up thing of not having had body dysphoria until after starting transition.
To be clear, if the normal risks and expense and pain were what I could expect from a somewhat below  average healthy person of my age, then there'd be no problem at all and I'd happily sail off into a post op sunset. There are the obvious practical advantages - I really do miss saunas,swimming etc. Sexually it would be likely to be a significant  improvement, though at the moment having moved to more full body orgasms is quite...entrancing. Certainly I'd be more relaxed in any sexual situation if post op. Being bi with a main focus on women it's maybe not quite as important than if I was straight, but it would ease interactions.
Then there's the validation. Because I can always look back at that sudden shift of being, that seems to affect me less than most ts people, but it still is annoyingly there. There's the thing one can occasionally still glimpse, that shadow lurking at back of the mind, the one that whispers that maybe none of this is wholly real, that you're perhaps being indulged in some foolish play of presentation. To look down and always see a constant reminder that you're not as fully a woman as you could be does suck in that context. The one good thing about putting on weight is that that view tends to be mercifully truncated, as it were, and shrinkage obviously helps.
On top of that there seems to be something else : a body image confounded, or a neural map with strategically placed fuzzy zones, maybe. Or perhaps something that comes with a posture, the normal cultural specific ways a woman holds her body, which accentuate the de trop nature of a penis. Or maybe it is true, that feeling as your body changes in it's sensitivities, that surgical change simply allows for that process to complete.Telling the difference between these, however, is something I often find difficult to accomplish.
And then there are the motivations I don't have. I don't seek my validation as a woman in surgery. I don't see it as anything other than a climactic moment in presentational change. I believe that attempts to view it as anything different in kind to simpler forms of presentation are fundamentally nonsensical.That's not to say that many can't find it a climactic moment, but don't believe that that springs from the surgery itself as much as from it's place in the individual's narrative.
( For a variety of reasons I do think it's a worthwhile enterprise to establish correlatives, that are more than simple assertions of identity, as to elements that constitute male and female. I certainly don't see those as related to anatomy but rather to cognition. Because I'm neurologically intersex, something that embraces much of my consciousness, rather than wholly desperate for a superficial change in body form, for whatever motives.)
I don't see surgery as a personal completion and nor, thanks to geography, is not having it any bar to official changes. Certainly no-one who knows me more than casually is going to alter towards me through believing I'm somehow more authentic. Whenever I talk to cis women about the attitude that surgery should be a qualification of sorts, the reactions are simply disgust at the genital essentialism behind it. And joining in status games played by the older casualties of the transitioning process has zero appeal.
I think that not having GRS would be unlikely to lead to anything as dramatic as breakdown or suicide in my case. Older surgical essentialists of the most rabid kind will still have lived with the knowledge that they were mismatched with their body for a couple of decades before surgery. I've only done about 4 years so far. Depression, yes, I can see that as likely but in envisaging that I'm leaving out a key factor : whether or not there are reasonable spaces where accommodations can be made, positive possibilities. There, I do have a certain amount of room : it's hardly as if I've spent my life looking to transition and all it's ramifications. Not being bound to an emotionally highly invested image of myself as a woman does help.
On the other hand I do still feel that my present body shape constitutes a handicap of sorts. Internally, socially, in relationships, every which way I'm a developing woman with this single anatomical exception. If the situation does persist, I'm not sure how exactly that might impact on identification. Not so much in terms of gender but more in terms of relationships. From the viewpoint of a bi oriented woman, it would probably accentuate the attraction towards other bi oriented women.Anyway, whilst technically bi really don't see myself wanting a relationship with a guy. Within that sort of possible spectra of gendered relationship, ambiguous anatomy would certainly trend to being something relatively innocuous. The practical aspect of being non op as regards sex actually isn't particularly problematic for me. I always used to get more pleasure from my partners pleasure than the norm and that's now satisfyingly far greater still.
There's also the age thing. Anecdotally, at least, there does seem to be a growing percentage of younger transitioners who are happy in at least postponing GRS. Despite celebrating my 15th birthday this May, body age sadly trumps mind's second adolescence as a factor : and the possibilities of getting some degree of use out of this particular body mod, slim though they may be, are in rather too rapid decline.
When it does come to making any sort of decision will any of these ruminations make any real difference to how I feel ? Not sure...
On a more general level,I'm sure there are many who share problematic health issues relative to GRS. There's the fairly stupid myth put out by some HBSers and the like that there are only a very few conditions which automatically preclude surgery. And in a way they're correct, in terms of abstract conditions per se. In the real world though, there are many conditions which, if present in a more severe than average form, negate the possibility of surgery, not to mention  the situation of people at the intersection of various such problems. As a group, because of  the frequency of problematic and stressful lives and the frequent occurrence of IS type physical abnormalities, trans women are significantly more prone than the average to these sorts of surgical dilemmas. Minimising this group, or simply jeering at peoples 'excuses' for not having GRS is one of the most unpleasant aspects of voices in the trans blogosphere.
And finally, I wouldn't like to feel that I'm in any way supporting a specific standard narrative. I went into transition because I was clearly female, in terms of neuro-hormonal realities. From the initial self realisation I've sought to go from that primitive girlhood state to becoming a woman. I've encountered many changes both internal and external and I've tried to keep growing as well as I can. Because that process for me involves an attraction to GRS does not, and should not, in the slightest way invalidate the narrative of someone trying for similar processes who doesn't share that attraction. 
If a sister leaves for a desired trip to Thailand, I'm happy for her. If a sister is happy exploring life sans Thailand then I'm happy for her too.
Simple stuff.

Postscript. The above was written a couple of months ago. Initial indications are that my health surprises both myself and doctors in terms of readings. That means something like an orchiectomy or penectomy wouldn't be a problem. GRS might be different but still quite possible. Won't be sure for a while exactly how it works out, but for hours - make that days - make that weeks -  my first thoughts were about this subject rather than it being good health news generally.
And I think this will be my last post on operative status for a fair while. Never particularly fond of using those aspects of transition as material .With my specific uncertainty of status it's been rather difficult to read about others surgical journeys and consummations so I don't think I want to join in that myself.                         

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Clarifications, honesties and fictions

I think I speak for many when I say that this post by little light was one of the most inspiring things I read last year. Fundamentally I do believe that honesty is a prime defining characteristic of trans people : that at least once amidst scepticism and hostility from others, allied with our own wished for doubts, we have been honest with ourselves about what we truly are. And, in whatever ways the world allows, we have acted upon that honesty.
Some clarifications then.
For myself, I have no doubts that I'm a woman.
I have some doubts about surgery which spring simply from the fact that I might not be able to have it, and consequent necessary ambiguities as to evading confrontation with that desire.
I have no doubts about transition. The thought of going back isn't anything that I concern myself with because it's simply too ludicrous to even contemplate.
Thinking further on my last post I'd say that a main area that perhaps I find most challenging is to find a personal formulation of how to iterate myself as a trans woman in a world grown strange through that knowledge of myself.
By trans woman I do not mean anything related to surgical status or to any doubts about being a 'real' woman. Rather, I take it as a term relating to history. On the one hand there might be the case of someone who was out at age three, got family, medical and general social support so that no real transition apart from a mildly delayed puberty and probable surgery ever happened. In such an instance I wouldn't see the term trans woman as having much relevance and certainly wouldn't see it as in any way dishonest to avoid it.
On the other hand there are those who have, to a greater or lesser extent, navigated through their own doubts and the male world to the congruence of transition. With such the importance to their lives of being trans as well as the importance of transition mean that they are more easily described as trans women. Of course the 'trans' is secondary, as with black woman, disabled woman, autistic woman, immigrant woman, mother, daughter etc etc etc. And equally if anyone wishes to simplistically call being trans a birth defect and permanently ditch that description, it's hardly an indictable dishonesty given the social enforcement of the gender binary. Like stealth, it generally has some fear component, and possibly a well justified one, given the figures for assault and murder, that can't really be condemned. Obviously it would be nice if such wouldn't universalise their experience and elevate it to sole authenticity, but, as one trans friend recently speculated to me, a high degree of narcissism may be a significant survival factor in transition.
Anyway, this is more of a personal post than a general one about labels, and the point is that besides these general considerations my particular narrative adds it's own spin on being trans. It's 4 years and a couple of weeks since I woke up different to the rather off beat male I'd always considered myself. Whilst social transition is important it's that transition, that tipping point and it's unravelling of male to emergent female circuitry, that is my significant trans identifier. In that way I'm transgressive not only of the gender binary but of the normal bounds of the trans narrative itself. And it's in confronting that, that the application of honesty becomes difficult. As transition goes, there's the negative side, the sloughing off of the male. I daresay that I'm reasonably typical in that sans hormonal reinforcement most of that vanishes away. But much of my intellectual life springs from more recalcitrant male bases and does need continuing critical analysis. My body language presently moves a little to be generally congruent with my socio-sexual identity - a somewhat butch area which is not so easy to navigate. (Can I be in any sense butch and experiment with wearing petticoats ? Questions, questions). More importantly, though, there's the question of knowledge gained through my (real) transitioning process. It's not a female or a male thing but something distinctly other. How to confront that knowledge, how to transfigure it in my life, these are the main questions that I'm still grappling with. It's not about presentation or being any given sex/gender and indeed I'm not sure if it really needs an iterative resolution at all. But it does seem to need some sort of resolution.
Sometimes I wonder whether all trans people are thusly caught in that bright moment where we learned our doom. Because that aha moment that we grasp and confront honestly isn't purely about our own identity but the world's. That our own reality shines hard and bright enough to cast the world as a shadowland around us, a trap of simulacra created through our lived knowledge.
A practical example might be this. I am someone who lives much of her life in a world of ideas. I can appreciate the changes in that mental life in some respects and be frustrated in others. It's really great to just sit back and think without needing stimulation of some sort to raise arousal levels.On the other hand the accessibility of certain categories of knowledge processes is lessened. In Nietzsche's terms, I'm less intellectually light-footed though hopefully not more german because of that. Basically I view that as a relatively normal consequence of new hormone / neurology congruence and a natural concomitant of the relegation of systematised weltanschauung from being closely tied to the day to day self and more part of reflective experience. But there's a dilemma here. A normal cis woman simply lives this experience and doesn't seek out cognitive habits to mitigate the occasional lessening of what could never be a part of her life. Am I undermining my own feelings of authenticity of gender if I do seek in those directions ? Of course there isn't theoretically any problem since the choices I make in this regard are a woman's choices. Practically though, that it also relates to the trans imperative to junk the rags of male life is part of the attempt to create a cis-like authenticity of unselfquestioned female being. But is it honest and authentic in itself ?
Putting it differently. As we wind our ways through the process of second adolescence that lies at the centre of every meaningful transition,we face the same issues as every growing girl.We explore our estrogenized capacities, we seek to find out what it really means to be a woman and the full capabilities we possess. If we shy away from this enterprise, if we simply say that it's really only some sort of passing intoxication,we run the risk of a life spent busy dying. But if we do enter into it how is it possible to avoid using the parameters gained through our first adolescence ? And if we try and ignore this factor completely through some artifice of innocence, what price authenticity ? 

I suspect that I won't be able to make this significantly more clear to myself until further advanced in process.

And then there are the fictions of the moment. Am presently reading through the 60 short stories, sadly not Barthelmic, that were submitted for the competition and confronting my fictive self in various guises. And then there's my rat of an ex husband who wants to use me for a version of the story that's her major project. Which of course I'll be doing. She may be a rat but her project is amazing, a retelling through different cultural matrices of a fairy tale through words art and performance. Take a look here for something awesome.