I maintain a certain anonymity simply because I’d like not to unduly upset family by being as open as I can about my health. I’ve already been written about – without consent – by, arguably, the world’s most widely read paper, so I’m not that difficult to find, should you wish to visit.
In terms of the themes that I’ll be blogging about, many concern events going back to 2006. In those far off times, I sought, as a reasonably eccentric, heterosexual male, for a serious relationship. There had been one woman whom I'd meet up with every few years, to encounter a wonderful promise, but always a prior commitment or obstacle in the way. But finally, after more than 20 years, we were both free, both still in love with each other and we could go for it. Life was pure romance, even unto the sickly sweet Hollywood variety.
This later altered into a different kind of Hollywood-type genre in early 2007 when, whilst checking marriage venues, I fell ill, went to hospital, was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis and essentially given about 3 years to live, though with some chance of a transplant, perhaps longer. I wanted to stop the relationship there. She wanted it to carry on, but in un-Hollywood style, it dwindled, and in early 2008 she didn't reply to my calls for a month, and then told me that she wouldn't be coming to my normal country of residence.
I accepted this change in the scenario -- to one of Hollywood post-modern irony -- and didn't tell her that I'd been trying to contact her so as to tell her of my new status as the blue eyed boy in the liver unit, my blood values going back from second to first stage Childs Pugh, essentially giving me the possibility of something like 5 years longer, before hitting the 50% mortality mark.
So there I was, still on a huge high a month or two later, as I woke up one morning with the strong feeling that something was missing. When I hit the streets, everything changed in the way I seemed to see and feel people around me. I was only too clearly NOT in Kansas. In the following weeks and months, I’d come to view it as essentially a process of acclimatising to being female, but at that time, after about a day I could work out that if I had to put a name on this thing that I'd lost, that name was gender.
And I started reading, and encountered lots of descriptions about how my condition might be disturbing my hormone levels, in conjunction with spirolactone, a common component of hormone treatment for feminisation that I take as a long term diuretic. This is, though, very unlikely to be a full explanation and it now seems (through bureaucratic health care problems) that there’s also a strong possibility of some additional factor -- DES, for example -- coming into play. (If anyone has any knowledge of the effects of these medical factors and their possible impact on my hoped-for course of orchiectomy and low-level transdermal estrogen, I would be overjoyed to hear from you, since I’ll be trying to coordinate separate specialists from two countries and it gets strange and wearisome). I have been presenting as a woman since December, my voice changing slowly, and electrolysis only just starting, but otherwise (social language and gestures) I think I am proceeding extremely well. Physically, I’m heading for a c-cup and my hair and skin are significantly altered. Perceptually, cognitively and emotionally, I’m now very differently constituted.
Given that I’m a qualified psychologist with some experience of inter-personal and drug-based therapy work, it’s these changes that I find particularly interesting, rather than those changes that spring more from an overwhelming sense of self-identification as female.
In terms of my approach to gender, as a man, I used to incorporate a significant number
of second-wave feminist attitudes into my life. That’s changed. Whilst I still wouldn’t see any predeterminacy of gender roles as anything but phallocentric crap, I now adopt a far more essentialist view of gender identity.
As an attempt to locate myself more in theory, I hope to start a group soon on gender in science fiction, something I have some experience of doing in previous years. If anyone is interested, it could have some internet dimension, perhaps a podcast. I’m thinking of focussing on the Tiptree Award anthologies, with excursions through Josephine Saxton, Octavia Butler and a host of others, hopefully attracting some people from the local women’s / gender / queer studies courses.
Because I have a relatively cool situation, in one of the most trans-friendly districts of one of the most trans-friendly cities in the world. It doesn’t mean that I can travel far alone, or by taxi, or not be laughed at in the street, or challenged by 16-year-old boys. Because my physical condition is such that a couple of hard blows to my stomach could quite easily kill me, it certainly justifies a bit of paranoia. But I rarely go out, since the world comes through my door. I am hopeful I can induce some of the usual suspects to post about aspects of our environment and the rest of their city lives. I am profoundly grateful to many people here for the love and support they’ve shown me in this difficult time.
The main subjects I’m going to try and write about, besides personal vagaries, are the processes of this transition, my own as well as those affected by me. The picture that occurs to me most frequently to illumine my transition is that of a 10 year old T-grrl in the changing body of a mid-fifties male, in declining health, with above-average cognitive abilities, but with a load of useless attitudes, habits and perceptions to be junked or recycled, all in the service of becoming the best woman I can be. And T-grrls grow up fast.
I’ve never before felt such fulfilment or been in such a place of healing, and surrounded by such wonderful sisters from whom I derive so much strength. I hope my future choices will all embrace the joy that I have experienced. I can’t promise that that it’ll make for interesting reading, but it gives me hope.