All posts for the month December, 2013

Letters From The Edge of Blogspace: A Stranger in a Strangely Familiar Land….

Published December 27, 2013 by Christine
To those who know me, this may seem like an odd style of writing. I find that it seems to get the point across better than describing my feelings purely from my own point of view. These entries expand on earlier entries which, admittedly, have a rather stilted style.

Finally being one’s real self is a strange, yet familiar feeling. Everything around you seems new and old at the same time, as if you are looking through new eyes which, in a way, is exactly what is happening. They are not physically new eyes but the perspective has changed. The body is the same but the mind has been freed of the shell it has been inhabiting for so many years. Over the years you have had glimpses of what might be, odd little times the Ghost has come to the fore and been able to manifest herself, but these have been few and far between, but now these glimpses have become a reality and a new world awaits you.

Your first journey out into this new land brings paralysing fear. Fear of what will be said, terror at the thought of being attacked. You know these things happen, you’ve read about them, heard people talk about them, even laughing about them. The assaults, the attacks and abuse, the deaths of those like you, all fill your heart with dread. What horror’s will be visited upon your person because you dared to finally admit who you are? You wonder how many others have felt this very same thing, for the same reason, how many pushed on and how many ran back, to afraid to embrace the strange new world that awaits them. Then a thought enters your head. Why? Why should I turn and run and empower those who would visit harm upon me? Why should I turn and run, letting those who do not understand determine the course of my life? Why should I be afraid to stand in the light, allowing others to deny me my very existence? The feeling of contempt for those that would wish you harm grows. There is no anger, just a surety that belong in that light. You know that anything could happen on the other side of that door but you are ready.

The outside world comes into focus as you step outside, Tracey by your side. People walking by, their own business on their minds, barely respond to your presence. They walk around you with barely a glance. The fear begins to drain away, slowly being replaced by another, unfamiliar feeling. As you walk down the street this unfamiliar feeling grows. Your footsteps become lighter, the slouch of depression you’ve had all your life disappears. You recognise the feeling that is growing within you. It’s a feeling you’ve only ever had when in the throes of a drinking binge. It is confidence. You feel like laughing and running down the street, shouting out to the world “I AM HERE”. You restrain yourself, but you look at Tracey, a massive grin on your face and she smiles back. How long have you denied yourself this? How long have you stayed hidden in the darkness, scared?

For the first time in your life you feel alive.


Letters From the Edge of Blogspace: Further Into The Light….

Published December 26, 2013 by Christine

Moving forward is always hard. You look at the journey you are embarking on and you wonder just how you are going to make it. There are no signposts directing the way, no markings showing the path. Nothing, just a blinding light, stretching into the future. You cannot see any barriers that lay across the road you are about to travel, but they are there, lying in wait. You can only hope to see them in time to avoid them, or deal with them if not.

It’s frightening, terrifying but, at the same time exhilarating, liberating. That first step into the light brings an inner peace for the first time in your life. The turmoil that has dominated your existence has been quieted, reduced to near nothing, but a new turmoil is taking it’s place. One not so serious but still impossible to ignore. You know what’s out there, outside beyond the walls that you have been trapped behind for so long. The world that had existed as nothing but a dream for so long was now real. You are now real, and how you act in this real world will determine how you are reacted to. For so long you have been a ghost in the darkness but now you have to learn your place, how you fit into this new, brighter world.

You stand in the light looking around. Tracey and your friends are with you. They no more know what needs to be done, or the path to be walked, than you but that are willing to walk with you, to help you when you need it, to pick you up when you fall. This is what friends do. You are grateful for this.

You look down at your feet, wondering what waits for you. You look up and take a step, further into the light.

Letters From the Edge of Blogspace: ….and the Woman in the Light.

Published December 22, 2013 by Christine

The Ghost in the Darkness II:

Living in the darkness, the dim, murky fog of alcohol is barely tangible. Its effects only felt briefly, hardly touching the lives of those whom you once counted as friends. Your only companions the liquid evil and the Ghost. She visits day to day, pleading with you to set her free, appealing to the Being that is buried deep within this shattered body. The Being that is her as well. There is no answer. The Ghost knows she will get no answer, and why. The Being is asleep, afraid of revealing herself, afraid of the consequences of responding to the Ghost’s appeal. The Ghost disappears, leaving the being to sleep. She will return again soon.

The years pass, the darkness remains, the fog thickening. You go through life no more than a zombie, animated only by necessity. Pubs are visited, food purchased, people spoken to. Interaction with others is at a minimum. Dreams are filled with wonders you long for, splintering into fragments in the light of day, leaving a lingering sense of regret tinged with hope. In dreams the Being is free. She awakes to an illusion of life, knowing the Ghost is not there, and plays awhile before returning to her slumber. This is your life, your existence, such that it is.

Unknown to you, events are beginning to coalesce, threads of coincidence coming together to form a framework upon which you can stand. There, upon that framework, a decision is to be made. A decision that will change your life irrecoverably. The wrong choice will destroy your life beyond all hope of salvation. The right one will change your life, bringing you back into the light you have been lost from for so long. One of these threads brings a woman into your life, Tracey. She loves you and you love her, but you will not allow her to get close. You turn her away, in the fear that your darkness will harm her. She leaves, saddened by the rejection of her love, not knowing why this should be, but she does not abandon you.

The Woman in the Light:

The Ghost returns for the final time. She waits patiently as always, calling to the being, in the hope that she will wake. Tracey returns, hoping for one last chance at love. This is the moment of the decision, the moment that all could be lost or won. The balance is perfect, and you begin to tell Tracey everything. The Ghost calls and the Being wakes. The Ghost fades, a smile on her face, as they merge to form a whole. Slowly, the fog begins to lift, gradually dispersing as the darkness fades to grey, to light, revealing a woman. You, the woman, who had remained hidden for so long, finish relating your story to Tracey. She understands now, why you turned her away. She understands the reason for the darkness and why you were hiding in the fog and it’s ok. You are unsteady, nervous, but sure and certain. As time goes on, and with Tracey’s help, you will become steady, and confident. You will own your life as the alcohol owned it before. You step out into the sunshine, feeling warmth on your face and smile. You promise Tracey that the darkness will never return to control you. That you will always be yourself…

….The woman in the light.

Letters From The Edge of Blogspace: ….The Ghost In The Darkness….

Published December 21, 2013 by Christine

There are many drugs in this world that can kill you. Some can only be obtained by prescription, necessitating a visit to a doctor, others can be purchased on the street, requiring a visit to a shady character on a dimly-lit street corner with the threat of imminent arrest and incarceration constantly hanging around like an unwanted companion. There is only one, however, that can be bought openly, consumed in public without the threat of arrest, and has buildings specially built and licenced for its consumption.

Alcohol, for some people, is more dangerous than heroin, crack, speed or any other street drug you can care to name. It kills insidiously, slowly and with the illusion that it is helping you when in reality it is destroying you. What starts out as a way of coping with frustration, a way of living with raging internal conflict eventually becomes the very thing holding you together. A tenuous supporting framework built on lies, deceit and betrayal. The odd thing is, you can see it happening. You watch it rip you apart slowly, piece by piece, destroying family, friendships, work, all the time reassuring yourself that everything is fine and that you can handle it.

The Ghost.

Your family can only watch helplessly in despair as you slowly fall apart. Parents holding each other in bed at night, crying, because their child is killing themselves and there is nothing that they can do. Friends try to help. They sit you down and talk, tell you what you are doing to them and family, in the vain hope that somehow, somewhere there is a living spark that can hear them. Eventually they stop. They sit, mute, in the certain knowledge that whatever they say, whatever they do, will mean no more to you than dust in the wind. Gradually they drift off, knowing they have tried, their failure to reach you gnawing at them, like a dog with a bone. They can’t see the ghost that sits with you. The ghost that has to become real. She has been with you all your life. She is you, the you that should have been but for a quirk of fate or biology and you want to set her free, but you know that if she does your life will change irrevocably. You fear the consequences but its the one thing that you want more than anything. So you drink to quieten the conflict, to subdue the ghost.

The Darkness.

Almost imperceptibly, as time passes, everything around you begins to dim, fading like the last light of a summer’s day. All around you, the world begins to fade, becoming almost insubstantial. The alcohol becomes everything. The only thing. It quietens the ghost but it brings the darkness. The darkness that only you can see and feel. It’s there all around you, like a shield, hiding you from the world. No-one really sees you any more. No-one notices the apparition, stumbling through the streets. The apparition who’s only reality now exists in liquid form. No-one cares any more about the titanic struggle that started it all off and is still going on. No-one knows of the irony that the conflict inside is the one thing that can save you. But she knows, she cares, she is the conflict.

She is the ghost in the darkness.

Letters From The Edge of Blogspace: The Lonely Optimism of a Shattered Childhood….

Published December 19, 2013 by Christine

Some people may be shocked by what I write here, in this blog, but it’s better to have that happen than anyone judge me by what is written in the tabloids or on certain chat shows. Trying to explain this to people as an adult isn’t easy, so imagine how I felt as a child.

Childhood should be about absolutes, the constants in a child’s life that they can depend on. To a certain extent I had mine: The certain knowledge that my parents loved me, and I loved them. The absolute fact that my brother was a real pain in the arse but, despite this, I loved him, (and still do), and the absolute knowledge that I was a girl. It was this that shattered my childhood, not that anyone knew. I became very good at hiding it.

To look at me, you probably wouldn’t have thought that there was a titanic internal struggle going on, but there was. A conflict between what I was expected to be and what I was. I didn’t have the words to describe what I was or why I felt the way I did. I felt more at home in female company, but most of the girls rejected me. To them I was a boy. Those that didn’t became my friends but then the boys started bullying me for being ‘girly’, a poofter, queer. It seemed I didn’t fit in either side so I was in a kind of limbo, a nowhere land.

I was the girl from nowhere.

There were many times I came close to telling my parents what I was and maybe I should have done, but this was the late ’70’s and boys were meant to be boys and unfortunately I looked like one. Maybe if I had been strong enough things may have been somewhat different.

As I grew, so did my knowledge. Learning is a wonderful thing. It opens up the world, shows you new things, some good, some bad. Despite the often used saying, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is the purveyor of fear which, in turn, is the creator of bigotry, the sibling of hatred. So, I learned. Not just at school but at home as well. I learned how televisions worked by taking them apart, how rockets worked by building them, (models of course), how chemistry worked by blowing things up, (and redecorating my bedroom in the process) and electronics, by building and experimenting. I also learned about myself. Quite by accident, aged 12, I came across the word ‘transsexual’ in a newspaper. Upon being asked, my cousin told me that it meant a man who had become a woman, (somewhat inaccurate but, hey, we were kids). This set me on a path to find out more. In my local library, (remember the WWW didn’t exist then, just the internet), I researched further, eventually coming across books such as April Ashley’s Odyssey, Conundrum by Jan Morris, Second Serve by Renee Richards. This amazed me. Not only did I have the words to describe how I felt, I also now knew I was not alone in this. There were others like me. I could become the girl I really was. Reading the books I began to realise what would happen, the sacrifices I may be required to make, the hideous bigotry I would have to face, and I became a little less certain of myself and my ability to put myself through this.

By the time I turned seventeen, my shattered childhood remained shattered and became a shattered adulthood. The optimism remained, the hope that I could overcome the crippling fear of what the world would say about me and just become that which I was. The frustration of that fear battling against the need to become my true self led me down a darker path than I could ever have anticipated.

But that’s for next time.

Letters From The Edge of Blogspace: Gender Identity and the Myth of Social Construction

Published December 16, 2013 by Christine

Please Note: I use the word ‘transsexual’ rather than ‘transgender’ because it is a term I am comfortable with. Also, in the context of this blog ‘gender identity’ refers only to ones internal sense of being male or female.

It takes a lot to get me annoyed. I admit I don’t suffer fools gladly, I go nuts at blatant stupidity on the roads and I hate bad customer service. But there’s one thing that really gets me seriously pissed off, and that is people who comment and pass judgement on my being transsexual without knowing all, or sometimes any, of the facts and, just lately, there has been a lot of that. I would like to try and provide some sort of education. This is an entry I’ve been meaning to write for some time.

The OED entry for “transsexual” is: noun: a person who emotionally and psychologically feels that they belong to the opposite sex. I don’t like to say “I feel like a woman”, since I don’t know what a woman feels like. I only know what I feel like. I’ve felt like this since I was a child, (as far back as I can remember. See here ). I am now going through transition which, without reiterating details elsewhere in this blog, is physically and psychologically painful. Very painful.

Contrary to what some people seem to think we do not get up one morning and think “I want to be a woman”. Its not something that suddenly comes on us out of the blue, or something that we have “picked up” from somewhere. Nor is it “just a phase” that we go through. Its something that is with us from birth. No-one can say exactly what happens in the womb, what goes wrong but, all foetus’s are initially female until the introduction of testosterone for the boys and oestrogen for the girls. Maybe we get enough testosterone to develop a male body but retain a female mind. Who knows? What I do know is that the end result is growing up with what sometimes appears to be one of the most reviled conditions in recent times. Recent studies have shown that the rate of suicide attempts for transsexuals the UK is 34% (>1 in 3, N=872) and in the US it is 41% (N=7000). These statistics are not the result of transsexualism itself, but the result of the fear, depression and anxiety caused by society’s intolerance towards it.

When we are born, the midwife or doctor looks between the baby’s legs and, if there is a penis, assigns male, or a vagina, assigns female. Unfortunately, on occasion, they unknowingly get it wrong. As I said initially, as far back as I can remember, (about the age of four, I think), I have felt wrong. At that time I didn’t have the knowledge to put it into words, but it was there. This ‘wrongness’ sat in my mind, nameless, for several years before I began to have an inkling about what it was. I had begun to learn about the physical and social differences between boys and girls and, during this learning period, the wrongness I was experiencing began to coalesce. I began to realise I was a girl. There was no getting around it. My body was wrong, that of a boy, but I was a girl nonetheless. I tried explaining it to my family, but they just laughed and told me I would grow out of it. I tried with my friends but they also laughed and started bullying me. At this time, I had several female cousins living not too far away, (practically next door, in fact), so I used to go round to see them. Eventually I plucked up the courage to tell them how I felt. They started to treat me as a girl almost immediately. It felt right for the first time. I can remember how it felt so normal to be treated as one of the girls and not a freak or a joke. Unfortunately my parents had to move and that was the last time for nearly forty years that I felt like a normal person.

What you have to remember, dear reader, is that at this time I really had no concept or knowledge of gender, of any kind of gender spectrum, nor of gender roles, presentation or identity. I didn’t even have a word for how I felt, I just knew I was a girl cursed with a boy’s body, end of. Laying in bed every night, praying that I would wake up with the right body, or hoping that if my parents saw me enough times as a girl that they would realise I was one. It never happened and, as it turned out, it was never going to.

My experience, along with the experiences of so many others, refutes the argument put forward by so many, that gender identity is socially constructed and can be changed. Gender presentation and gender roles are a product of society, almost certainly, but gender identity is innate, built in and unchangeable. I repeat:

Gender Identity is innate, built-in and unchangeable.

For those who have trouble understanding this I am afraid that there may be no hope for you, but I can come and shout it in your ear for a large sum in untraceable notes.

For most people their gender identity matches their physical sex, for others, transsexuals like myself, it doesn’t. Where the majority of people grow into gender roles and have gender presentations that match their gender identities, transsexuals do not. We are forced into gender roles and presentation that fit our physical sex only and are labelled misfits, deviant or abnormal when we try to correct our physical problem. This is where the depression, fear and high suicide rates come in. This is where the education is needed. Society’s disdain for us is caused by its collective fear of the unknown. Once the unknown becomes known then there is no need for fear. In this day and age there is no excuse for ignorance. There is no excuse for hatred and oppression. Parody is also a way of dealing with fear of the unknown. There is no need for this, (television and film makers please take note here). The knowledge is freely available, and if there is some doubt then please ask. None of us will bite heads off because someone asked a sensible question, but we do get annoyed at stupid questions.

I only hope that this goes some way to dispelling the misinformation about transsexuality and reducing the fear and ignorance surrounding it.

As for me? Well, I’m just a woman trying to make life a little easier for herself. If anyone has a problem with that well, come up and see me.

Letters From The Edge of Blogspace: Love, Hate and Violence….

Published December 13, 2013 by Christine

Over the last few years my eyes have been opened, wide. I knew, being transsexual that, when I transitioned, there would be prejudice and a certain amount of hate possibly levelled at me, but I hadn’t reckoned with the absolute levels of hate and violence against trans people as a group, and the sources of it.

It seems that, having spent much of my life in a drunken stupor (see here), I had missed out on a huge chunk of what was going on. I was so, so naive. To me, church was a place you went to talk to an implausible being who was probably too busy anyway, a christian was someone who did this, turf was sheets of grass used to make a lawn, right-wing was something to do with politics and prejudice and discrimination happened to other people. How things have changed. How I’ve grown up. I’ve had to. Transition is not an easy journey.

There have been the changes socially. I get treated as a woman. Doors opened for me (nice), people talk to me more, especially other women, shopping is a much more fun experience, even silly things like male drivers letting me out at junctions. There are some not-so-nice changes, (I’m not complaining, just commenting), mainly things I took for granted pre-transition, such as being treated like I don’t know anything in DIY shops, (having a pink toolkit recommended to me!), and car shops, but the best is computer shops where thirty years in the business gives me a chance to have fun.

But then there’s the hate and the violence. The sheer immensity of it is staggering.

It appears that much of the hate for us is Right-Wing (largely) Christian led, mainly in the US, but there is a large component here in the UK. They run around, selectively quoting the Bible to justify their hatred and intolerance, pointing at us and calling us abominations, freaks, and worse. Then they say they can cure us, with love and God’s grace but, when that doesn’t work, its back to inciting violence and hatred.

Then there are the TERFs, (TransExclusionary Radical Feminists), feminists that want people like me dead, who would look upon a trans suicide as a victory, who see us as nothing but men in dresses raping women. Feminists like Cathy Brennan, Janice Raymond and Victoria Brownworth to name but a few. I have read some of the TERF websites and Twitter postings with a kind of horrified fascination that this sort of thing could actually exist.

But the worst hate of all is the fear and hate generated by ignorance. The fear that some people have of the unknown. This is the hate that kills, the hate that destroys lives. This is the hate that is fed upon and encouraged by the Right and Christian Right and TERFs, the hate and fear that is turned into violence and murder. The hatred that causes the 44% level of suicides of trans people and makes stepping out the front door a nervous journey into unknown familiarity for many more. The hatred that has killed more than two hundred trans people in the last year for no better reason than who they were, and has given rise to an annual Day of Remembrance.

The hatred and fear is real, visceral. The only weapons we have are law and education. Knowing a thing removes the fear of that thing. We can only show that we are people trying to get on with our lives. We only shout and make a fuss when we are treated less than any other, when we are pushed to the back of the bus. Otherwise we want to live without fear of being killed simply because we are truly ourselves.

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