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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.


  1. I haven't seen an entry like this before, anywhere. Very enjoyable. I correlated with a lot, but I felt the biggest reaction from 7, "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." This is very true for me lately. Where is it written that we have have to wear FULL make up everyday just because we're transgendered? All of my closest female friends have been motivated, thoughtful, Bohemian types who don't need to wear two layers foundation with eye liner everywhere. This is not theater. It is not drag.

  2. One of my most embarrassing moments early in transition was when I was talking to a friend about hormones etc in a local supermarket and he started laughing and gestured towards the cashier. Another early transition trans woman stood there, easily read by the caked on foundation and squiggly eye liner. Helped my resolve not to cover up.
    It's odd though that some of the loudest voices against 'tg' women on the grounds that they're fetishistic cross dressers are also the ones happy to police looks and manners as if we should all be 1950's suburban housewives.

  3. Excellent entry and I agree with much of what you have to say. I think the common wisdom of trans is very dangerous to people coming to terms with this because it is a horror show filled with homeless, friendless, jobless fringe dwellers. It makes you ask the question, "Isn't living with the pain preferable to all of that?" Funny thing is, most of the trans people I know do not fit the narrative and have lives just as varied and variable as anyone else.

    As for presentation, people should do what works best for them. I made a deal with myself when I began that I would never be that early transitioner with the bad eyeliner and caked on foundation. I didn't want to be that person and it was less important for me to exist as a woman in the public space if it meant feeling embarrassed about my appearance, which I am sure the woman at the store did. This is not to say I do not wear make-up. I like make-up, but conservatively. The way I present myself is the way I like to present myself for myself. That should be the only driver in anyone's life.

    Oh, and Tarot? All the world is a stage.

    1. Really think that putting over that variability gets more and more important. Not a good thing to have an over-victimised outlook when our main concern must be with those who transition after getting a fair hope of good outcomes.
      Agree on presentation. Always used minimal make up, moisturiser and a dab of light eye shadow normally, didn't actually want to think much about it. Oddly, though, am reverting to a greater level of uncertainty about a few things, clothes mainly. It's blending in with the queer women around and going for certain looks, in my case adding a little steampunk onto my relatively normal black. Perhaps that'll expand my appreciation of what I want for myself.

      And hopefully it won't make me feel like a dwarfish thief in giant's robes.