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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.

A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away….

Published April 27, 2011 by Christine

I think that we all know where the title of this entry comes from so there is no need to expand on it.

Memory is a funny thing. One person will remember events in one sequence, with one set of events and someone else will remember something different about the same set of events. I think that the only memories that can be truly correct are those that have happened to ourselves and have defined our lives. This catagory, Reminicence, is a collection of my own personal memories that have had some of the biggest  impacts in my life and some are very personal. I am sharing these as it gives you, dear reader, a better understanding of who and what I am, and how I came to be at this point in my life.

(I apologise in advance if things seem to be a bit disjointed as memory can sometimes play tricks with the timeline when trying too hard to remember. We could call it “Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle of Memory”. If you don’t know Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, you obviously have internet access so LOOK IT UP, it’s the best way to learn.)

I think that the earliest memory I have of wanting to be female was one night after school when I was about six. I had seen one of my friends leave her house to go to Brownies wearing her Brownie uniform. I remember really wishing I could go with her, wearing my own uniform (if I’d had one), but this was not to be. I went to bed that night praying with all my heart that God would make me a girl, that I would wake up in the right body, a girl body, and things would be alright. Of course I awoke the next morning still with the cursed boy body ( I wasn’t cognisant enough to be thinking those actual thoughts, it’s just literary illustration. My actual thought probably ran along the lines of <sigh> “I’m still not a girl.”). From that day onward, I prayed every night that I would wake up as a girl, but it never happened. I still do it to this day, albeit, subconciously. Now the prayer I have been saying for most of my life is slowly, very slowly, being answered.

You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere…..

Published March 19, 2011 by Christine

Just to start, I apologise if this part of the blog appears a little disjointed but I am writing from memory and trying to keep certain events and people out of the narrative without losing too much in the way of context. Besides it’s only an overview to give you, dear reader, a passing aquaintance with my background, a point of reference, if you will.

Many transgender blogs/stories start from the person’s moment of birth. I think that I can skip that bit, and most of the life leading up to this moment. I have known that I was born in the wrong body from my earliest days. I just didn’t have the knowledge to put it into words. There was no World Wide Web, the internet was something that was generally limited to large companies, academic institutions and the military and government. I first came across the word ‘transsexual’ when I was 12, in a newspaper article about an actor and his transsexual girlfriend. I asked my cousin what it meant and she told me it was “a man who became a woman”. Bang, that was it. A thousand watt light illuminated my mental landscape. I finally had a description of what I had been feeling for all these years. I now had a point of reference. I eventually scooted down to the library and began digging through all the books I could find that might have a bearing on the subject, and found that nearly every description I could find matched what I was feeling. Once I started finding names I was able to start finding biographies: Jan Morris, Renee Richards, Coccinelle, April Ashley. Reading these had a profound effect on me, giving form and substance to the mental confusion that would eventually coalesce and become Christine. There was one effect that was not so good, which has affected me most of my life. I have never had a great sense of self-confidence. I have always avoided confrontation and tried to stay out of fights by pretending to be invisible. Reading these stories, it was the bullying, the scorn heaped onto these heroines by ignorant, intolerant people that scared me the most and set the pattern of my life with regard to Christine.

Over the years Christine popped up now and again when my confidence was at a reasonably high level ( and my parents were out, or I was round a gay friends house). Most of the time, though, she remained hidden. One side effect of hiding this side of me was that I started drinking. At first it wasn’t too bad. A few drinks in my parents pub with my friends, then visits to the off license before going to different pubs. Then during work & college hours I started going to the pub (I was an RAE electronics apprentice at the time). Gradually it became worse and worse. Eventually I was forced, by circumstance, to attend an AA meeting. This put me off the booze for a while, even celebrating my 18th birthday with apple juice while everyone else was on champagne. But the abstinence never lasted. In the mean time Christine was coming through more and more, sometimes at the most inappropriate of times (one of which was a situation which ended up with a gun pointed at me and the holder very ready to pull the trigger). After being kicked out of the bedsit I was living in at the time I moved back with my parents, who, thankfully, had left the pub business. I finally left RAE, (with a “Satisfatory” pass on my apprentice deeds), in 1988 and went out into the big wide world of real work. The next eight years were a mix of Electronics/IT jobs, visits to the pub and fighting with the burgeoning Christine. Then, in 1996, I met the girl who became my wife.

Between 1996 and 2006 lay some of the happiest and saddest years of my life. I will not go into them as it would reveal too much about her family and I would not like to embarrass them or cause them further heartache. Suffice to say, my wife passed away in 2006, I eventually moved out of the family home with an even worse alcohol problem due to her passing and ended up in a small flat in the bottom of Aldershot town. Eventually, with the help of friends and certain relatives I have managed to kick the drink, (apart from a couple of dives off the wagon, now sorted), for good and am now engaged to a lovely woman whom I love very much and who is fully supportive of my transgender nature.

Here endeth the first lesson.

Conclusion: Even the shortest biography is longer than you think.

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