My Blog List

Thursday, December 29, 2011

An odd storytelling

So the way I tend to describe myself, in trans terms, to people I meet, goes something like this.
That there tend to be two typical narratives for trans women. In the first they are very clear from an early age as to what they are and tend to transition fairly early in life. The second is of those who sat on that knowledge, or more probably weren't as sure or as desperate, who may have had to go through a variety of entanglements and typically transition later in life.
And that then there are the rest of us.
That I'm one that was born under the impact of accidental hormonal transition and started shedding my previous supposed gender with extreme speed.
And I'll tell them about the growing evidence for neurological explanations of transsexuality and how, in a small way, my own case is evidential. My normal model is that my brain was, with testosterone, just able to perform male, and then the change to estrogen  rendered that impossible and meant it now runs as it really always should've done, not so much genderbending but more a straightening up.
And I'll talk to them about puberty and going through that again. Talking with several hundred people, mainly women, that's when acceptance of the nature of the transitioning process seems to get through : that it's not about presentation as much as travelling through an equivalent period of struggle that was difficult and formative in their lives when their hormonal balance changed in adolescence.
Maybe I go on to say that probably the best test for transsexuality is HRT because without the appropriate neurological structures it has little effect beyond bodily changes.
And I'll probably mention surgery in fairly functional terms.
At some point I'll talk about the suicides, the murders, the assaults, the social pressures, the reasons far too many of us lead lives of solitary desperation.
Answering the questions is an interesting process. I'm fairly adept at talking about before and after states, and only really encounter problems with the usual suspects - people who've had some personal or academic exploration of gender which leads them to believe they truly know all about it. Contrariwise there are some who are accepting to the point of jealousy. Most temper a mild envy with relief that it's someone else going through it.Can't count the number of times people have congratulated me on having lived two lives. I don't know how the acceptance I get with my narrative compares with the more standard one of always being the target sex, but my feeling is that I get a lot more understanding from those I meet than normally happens, simply because their potential modes of interraction with me are clearer.
I'll enter these conversations, obviously not with everyone and now only a couple of times a month, for all sorts of reasons. My professional situation gives rise to a lot more intimate discussions than would normally be the case and the separation between social and business blurs. My place does conventional  business but it's also a club / salon type of thing with a constantly changing membership in which I'm fairly central. Being trans is a major part of my life, and it's one others find interesting, and given that I'm completely out here it's actually rather better to introduce the topic myself than have them find out from others or through reading me ambiguously. At present I pass perfectly well on the street or in casual meetings but my voice is still no thing of unalloyed beauty when my usual sinus problems crop up or simply when I'm tired.
On top of that I really do feel that if one is in a situation where it is possible to be out then it is a relatively good thing for the trans community as a whole. When I do the occasional interview I try to put some trans element in for the same reason. And for myself I think I'm not so much outting myself as trans as saying I'm someone in transition. When you're learning from all the women around you, I do believe it to be a more effective process when they're aware of it.
I wonder from time to time about how others of my kind tell their stories and structure their transitions. I know enough anecdotally to be able to say that I'm far from unique and that the numbers of those of us going through non-purposefully hormone induced neurological gender change are very understated, for obvious reasons. And standard trans narratives totally erase us. We're born like grey-eyed Athene, springing fully armed from the head of the god, or at least the pituitary thereof. And the beginning of our wisdom surely lies in seeking the best instructors at arms as we grow into our estate.
Now, after 3 years, the story telling gets less important. Most of the internal work is done, the queer world outside calls insistently, and I have no desire to hold myself back from it.Time to get active.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Past oddities

I remember a time in my twenties when I was going up Fleet Street reading a book and walked straight into a lamppost. Actually this has not been the only time such a thing has happened to me by any means, but this was the time I thought to myself - 'Ah, that's the sort of person I am', accompanied by a vague mental image of professor branestawm. And that may have led me to not focus too much on whether elements in my lifestyle were evidential of underlying oddities since I've always seen myself as overbalanced toward a life of ideas. Additionally I was quite aware of having a lot of privileges - race, class, money, gender,etc -  that I didn't mind using to make sure I was always working at something I've wanted to and to lead my life relatively free of a fair number of conventions. That something I justified to myself by trying to support communities I found myself in and to sabotage the roots of privilege as I saw them. How far that was true and how much a cover for simple self-indulgence, others can judge.
At this point perhaps I should give my relationship history. I have the feeling that most trans people lead relatively conventional relationship lives, excepting young transitioners, and presume that that comes from the trans condition being an overriding factor. Or people living other lives on the internet.
Myself I have not led a particularly conventional relationship life. It started off reasonably enough, a couple of brief girlfriends around 17 and then living together, marrying and being divorced by a woman, having helped produce my only child, all in a decade or so.But one or two odd things. It was an open marriage for the last few years, for one thing. And my emotional relationships with friends were more substantial than usual, in a non-sexual way. Through and after this I was also part of a sort of extended family scene with my best male friend at it's centre : a network of mutual friendship mediated by my friend, myself and 2 or 3 other people, including a small music circle, building people, esalen grads and others. That was a strong force in the next few years, though I had a number of short terms things. I've never really had or wanted some sort of one night stand. There is one real oddity I had in that I wasn't jealous ( as in not really knowing the emotion rather than simply not feeling too much of it). That always caused problems. I'd several times had a story from her that a girlfriend had slept with someone else,and responded normally with mild curiosity. Not a productive thing to do. And then there were the nights of endlessly discussing one girlfriends boyfriends sexual dysfunction and possible therapy which did get a bit boring, though he was a nice guy as I recall.
Anyway my 30's and early forties were taken up with brief and often very sexual things, friends close enough to verge on the romantic, a second marriage to a lovely woman who I still talk to, and another decade long relationship. The first few years of that were great, the last horrible and not really I think with any fault there. My best friend, who I'd been a major care giver for, suicided during a situation that was already highly stressful for me and my girlfriend who was also living with him and others in a shared house. She went back to europe, I followed going also to the foreign wing of the extended family.I hurt, I mourned and started to drink far too much as some sort of numbing. That's up to the same point of time as my last post.
A couple of further things. Since my 20's there'd also been a significant romantic thing with a woman who I tended to see at entirely the wrong times over a 20 year period - one or other of us being otherwise engaged. Don't think it ever destabilised anything, though can never be sure.
Hope none of this sounds like I saw myself as anything studlike. I've always tried to have a full measure of equality and sharing in relationships, be a general supporter of feminist issues within them etc, partly out of sheer distaste at striking a more primally male posture.
Friendships could often freight more emotionally than relationships and possibly I did always have somewhat more close female friends than male.
Does any of this really make for a secret trans history ? Really not sure because though I can see it as odd, it could be odd for all sorts of other reasons.
To end, another moment of self realisation, this time sans lamppost and sans the clarity of that other thought. It came during a time when I was socialising a lot in sf fandom and would go to the large monthly meetings. It came to me as I was sitting with a group of people who often spent these events at the same table with me. There was a woman who built large metal scuptures. Another who was going through her prime as a domina,( for some reason I've known a large number of dominas as friends) The third was a lesbian feminist taking a phd as part of her academic career, with whom I had a close relationship, emotionally,intellectually and stylistically (goth at the time). And it came to me that this was the kind of person I was, the sort to sit and talk and be comfortable in this kind of company.
Odd maybe.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Past secrets

Perhaps the strangest change is how I look back on my life. The bare facts remain in memory but the meanings are now so elusive. What kind of a man was I to slip so smoothly from that chrysalis ? Can I lump my various discontents together and say that those were really gender constraints ? Do I have a secret history, one I was never aware of, that now becomes visible in retrospect ?
Anyway, to start with facts. I was born in London in the early '50s, brought up on the SE outskirts and then moved back in for about 20 years. My parents were prosperous middle class, my father an east end boy made good in business, my mother a teacher. I was a hot housed child ; the sort that had read most of Shakespeare and had a fair grasp of 19thC novels by secondary school. My mother had been precluded from going to university to read english by faulty timing,( entry scheduled in 1939 ), and was determined that I should vicariously fulfil her ambition. I attended a minor public school as a day pupil and, given that it didn't change from single sex before I left, am possibly now the oldest old girl extant.
I was an odd child in many ways. I rarely had a fixed group of friends and had no love for male competition. At about 11 I stopped putting much effort into school work because most was too simple. This was not an attitude which found favour with my parents, who promptly shipped me off to an educational psychologist who further perplexed them with an IQ test - generally I've been a lot closer to 200 than 100. I'd also worked out that school sports were really evolution in action, and devoted considerable efforts to avoid the most obviously homicidal ones,rugby,cricket etc. I did join the school cadet corps and on a camp at the age of 14 the sixties really opened up through the benevolent actions of a couple of members of the parachute regiment who were happy to sell some of their marijuana to a group of schoolboys.
And that helped usher in a lot of difference. In terms of the values and life style I had in later life, much came from '60s counter culture. Necessarily somewhat of a weekend freak, still remember Grosvenor Square, the concert in the park, etc etc.There was music - I had a friend whose father was an assistant bank manager. He got hold of the tickets his manager didn't want that were received automatically because of owning a box in the Albert Hall, so nearly every rock concert there... I helped groups involved in helping draft dodgers get to europe, read Oz and IT religiously, got clothes from  Lord Kitcheners Valet and Biba and shared a dealer with the Pink Floyd. Academically I gave up literature after half a degree and then got a bsc phil / psych. Qualified as a teacher, did some further courses and work as a therapist and then ran my own business for the Thatcher years reading newspapers. I produced homemade newspapers from the nationals and internationals based on relatively complex briefs for multinationals and government. For a period Maggie would be reading my selection on waking, but I really do disclaim any responsibility for any consequencies. Lived opposite Di but would often hang out in Irish or Carribean neighbourhoods.
And then there were the other things. Always had some kind of property involvement from renovating my own places to helping out with a couple of family owned housing. My drug life was limited in quantity but high on quality and engagement. Mental exploration through psychedelics was a serious thing, and I mixed with a number of psychologists and magic chemists of similar persuasion. I don't particularly like to go into spiritual values, so simply I was buddhist by philosophy, an initiate within the western hermetic tradition by practice.
Relationships I came to late. Lived with and married one of my first girlfriends, divorced with one child. Never been anything but straight sexually, though experiencing the occasional threesomes and the odd group. Some of my very best friends have been dominas, but I never really made that scene. Never went for one night stands, never hugely into PIV sex, and my friends have been more female than male, and included a fair number of lesbians, though few gays.
When I think of trans precursors, there are a few things. I've always felt isolated from a lot of people around me, certainly never placed a value in being macho or on identifying as male whilst I did on having feminist attitudes, went for emotional rather than sexual connections.Conformist is a word never used about me, eccentric only too frequently - think you have to be English to understand just how insulting that is. One of the most fulfilling relationships of my 30s was with a lesbian separatist. Still and all, never crossed my mind that I wasn't male. Were times when I found it hard to think of myself as human, but then I'm a serious science fiction /fantasy fan/critic so....The only time I can actually remember ever wanting to be a woman was in order to attend Sara Lefanu's feminism in sf course from which my anatomical sex barred me.
Never had any desire at all to cross dress. But was one of the Kings Road exotics (just before punk hit the scene) and my clothes sense has always been different. A good friend, who's now a fashion blogger, once told me when I complained of people looking at me when I wasn't trying to make any sort of fashion statement that '****, you are a fashion statement'. Never had to wear anything for business more than a couple of times a year so it just...evolved that way. I'm rather more conservative now, and do not, for example, wear antique kimono jackets on the street.
I guess that goes up to the late 80s, early 90s, so to be continued...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

While the iron is lukewarm

Besides interpersonal dramas, the main reason I haven't posted anything recently is a succession of different mobility issues and being on and off pain killers, a state of mind that I find sabotages writing. And the days when I've had pain free walking capabilty, I've usually done just that. But it's about 6 outside and here I am with a quick roundup.
One thing I've been spending a lot of time on has been looking back on being a guy and the various cognitive differences. I've shied away from that in the past for a number of reasons. Chief, though, was the totally irrational fear of somehow slipping back. The sudden nature and relative involuntariness of my initial hormonal transition leaves me wary about such. Interesting process now, though, working out how all those pieces of armour laced themselves together.
Things get a lot more normal now. I celebrated my 14th birthday recently - it seemed about time, and hope to make 16 by next halloween. Physical changes still happening ; less and less body hair, boobs fitting nicely in a 42C, when I'm not dieting, and some mild redistribution of weight still. As to rather more desirable physical alterations, I'll be changing my liver specialist soon, for a number of reasons, and hopefully the next one will be slightly more amenable to surgical options.
Also actually trying using a bit more makeup. I've used eye shadow, occasionally mascara but normally dying lashes, and moisturiser on a constant basis, but rarely anything else. It might not really be age appropriate behaviour, but most of my friends are about 30 years younger than me and most are insistent that I don't buy into the cosmetics industry.  But the occasional bit of variety is fun.
Clothes and I'm steadily moving to solids. Ocasionally browns but more usually black with red and or green. Always a bit of a surprise that I can wear those sorts of colours which I'd normally avoid as a guy. I wear skirts about 50 weeks a year. My place is only a courtyard walk from my flat so apart from odd forays to the local shops I dress for indoors and as flamboyantly as I choose, though I go extreme in that way far less often than when I was a guy. Still difficult to gauge who I'm really dressing for, in the way of sexual orientation. Really need to get out to a few queer places, or more preferably have the occasional queer trans night at my place.
And I suppose also considering the more spiritual aspects of transition. Rereading 'Splendor Solis' rather avidly and examining how my prime significator seems to have moved from Tammuz to Nuith, chariot to star.
 Reading and, from a trans perspective I'd really recommend China Mieville's 'The city and the city'. Never very much liked the author. New Crobuzon was a nice creation but hardly 'Ambergris' and The iron council' has been on my shelf of evil books for ages. But this time with a less original idea and none of his usual bells and whistles he's written a really quite engaging novel with a metaphorical city of especial trans interest. And a warning for fantasy readers. People are saying R Scott Bakker has really improved with the first two of his second trilogy. He hasn't. Another warning for more conventional readers. The sun does not shine out of Miranda July's ... prose.
Hopefully a coming outish post next time and soon.

Monday, April 25, 2011

That awkward moment

I knew I shouldn't have written anything about how I pass - it always seems that immediately after something contradicts it.
Actually this has happened to me 3 times in the last week and I'm really going to have to try and handle it better. The thing is that I don't put that much effort/importance into passing and kind of expect to be read, at least as somewhat odd, after a while, when I'm doing my usual thing of sitting in my place talking to people. And as part of meeting conversations I quite often bring up being trans. It doesn't normally affect negatively and I do like to show that trans people aren't weird sex freaks and put over some basic bits of education. Additionally it works for my own benefit with women, since I can place myself as an adolescent and occasionally get useful advice on coping with emotional turmoil etc.
Except it gets hard when I have that awkward moment, the one where I'm talking to someone across a desk for a couple of hours, raise the topic of being trans and they go whatttt?? And, inside, I go like WTF. It's obviously some sort of compliment that I do pass that well, but it is a bit awkward because I suppose I'm putting people in mind of the 'deception' meme which is broadly counter productive.
Oh well, I guess I can always put up some more 'god made me trans' stickers etc.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Transition at 2 years and coming out

When I first started transition I thought about 4 - 5 years duration would be about right, and I'm still of that opinion.
Anyway, I'll be coming out to the wider blogosphere, to coincide with some fun publicity, in a couple of months time, so a general sort of post about the peculiarities of my transition process.
To reiterate. My process starts less than 3 years ago when I underwent a major hormonal change and, which is the really odd part, my neurology responded until I reached a violent tipping point.
After a first day of wonders and fears, I took 2 weeks to be sure it wasn't any sort of stroke but that I'd changed in a mix of ways and that it was definitely related to gender.
Then followed about 4 months of attempting to locate myself within or without the gender binary. To start I thought I'd have to be some sort of intergendered whatever, since I conceived that 50 odd years of male experience with nary a thought of anything else didn't exactly enable me to attain female gender. And it initially felt like having some weird sort of ability to go between gender gestalts, except for the way that 90% of the time I was overwhelmingly female, so I was rather concerned with underlying authenticity or whatever. But the process of identifying myself as having a female gender as the only active one was absolutely clear at the end of that time. So I set myself a further 3 months to see that nothing would change, saw a couple of counsellors and talked to a few non-specialist therapists and started changing my life to female presentation etc. I had an understanding employer (myself), and a supportive crowd around and approximately zero knowledge of things like makeup, clothes, voice and unable to have electro for about 6 months. It bid fair to be a long strange trip with no certainty of surviving it.
The way I thought, and still think about it, is as a process of growing up.When I first started I was about 9 or 10. Now I'm 13 and not so far off the jaded cynicism of a battle hardened 14 year old. In terms of measuring puberty, I've been having strong monthly cycles through the emotional mill for about 18 months and it's questionable whether I can really qualify as a suitable bait for unicorns.
I can't do drab anymore. Recently tried being andro for UK coming out visit and it simply didn't work. I pass reasonably on the streets but not long in conversation. Passing isn't a great deal for me, since I prefer to be reasonably out in terms of my history to the people I know and meet.
At the heart of my transition is a search for understanding how I now work. I prefer to view it in those terms because I want to avoid anything relating to gender performance having a primary role. I'm not sure how that matches with conventional trans narratives. I suppose because everything's been so concertina'd in my case it's bound to be different. I don't look out much for validation, though I'm really happy when I find it, in outside reactions. I'm a strangely immature woman to those who are my friends, in so far as I can tell, and an acceptable freak to many who aren't.But it's in understanding how this whole strange complex of female gestalt actually works, how things now fit together. It's the times of - oh that's what it's like to be a woman and that explains...- that I find the most exciting.Things like this...
A couple of months before starting transition, I was in a line at Tesco behind a woman who was in a really bad mood and taking it out on a hapless (female) cashier. Eventually she left and it was my turn. Passing the cashier I looked up and exchanged eye gestures with the cashier. Broadly it went ; (me) hard luck on getting one like that, (her)there's always one, (me) at least it's over with & sympathy, (her)getting to the end of the day soon anyway & thanks. I went into the mall outside, sat down on a bench and just rested and recovered for a quarter of an hour. It wasn't so much that it was rather more detailed than most normal gesture interchanges I'd had as much as being compressed to the point of happening 5-10 times faster than any similar experience I'd had.

I still remember the time I was sitting on an office chair, rocking a little in it whilst some music or other was on in the room, and suddenly realizing there was something totally new going on. It took about 30 seconds before the bamboo cane fell and enlightenment spewed forth. I was moving with the music. 50 odd years of music behind me and I'd never once moved WITH the music. Always as a counterpoint, an act of self definition through music, never just simply moving with it; never simply carried on the rhythms. And I had two thoughts about it. On the one hand I started seriously fantasizing about going for some sort of dancing because bump and grind theremin playing in a noise band didn't really do it for me. And on the other thinking how good an illustration it was of the effects of switching to an inductive cognitive paradigm and the consequences for abandoning the self-reinforcing differentiating paradigm typical of testosterone systems on agency in gender identity.
Or something.

A few months back I was in my place on a busy friday night when a woman came in I'd only met in passing a couple of times, and before transition started. She came in and was clearly relating to me as a guy in a dress. It happens and she wasn't the most perceptive of people. She was waiting for a couple of people she knew when a male friend sat down and started talking to me. Now he's a nice guy but the effects of alcohol and the lateness of the hour lent his words a quality of some considerable tedium. So I leaned forward with a light smile, concentrated expression and put that on automatic whilst I started thinking of other things entirely. The woman saw me doing it and totally changed in a flurry of eye signals.When the guy got up we went into an intense hour long talk with her apologising and overwhelmingly curious about the process of adolescence that I saw myself in. That was worth a lot more than barrel loads of pronouns or compliments to me. It's gone that way many times, before and since, but rarely so clear cut.

Again, I'm unsure why others' narratives so rarely include these sorts of things. Can understand that it might partly relate to feeling a necessity to be totally sure of their target gender and transition being at the end of a significant period of soul searching. Equally it may be that others also go through shifts but they're slow progressive processes rather than the violent one I had. But it leads to the odd feeling that I'm certain of being a woman, but not so certain of being trans, in terms of trans relating to individuals' more conventional narrative structures.
More reasonably soon on this....

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Oh dear...a vogon moment

Simply wanted to do an extended metaphor thing on trans women when it turned into this.

We are

We are the people of the river,
we are the waterborn,
we are those who have heard the sea's call.

We are the swimmers, washed downstream,
we are those caught in the pools along the oxbow way,
we are those that are wrecked, flung broken down the rapids,
we are those who arrive battered to the estuary,
we are those born by the coast,
we are those latecomers who finally follow our sisters into ocean.

We are those who have heard the songs of the river,
we are those new shaped, salt forged, in the fierce rush of waters,
we are those who have answered the call of the sea.