gender identity

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Letters From The Edge of Blogspace: The Last Mile….

Published April 23, 2016 by Christine

On the 5th of April this year, I went down to Brighton, to the Nuffield Hospital at Woodingdean, to see Mr Phil Thomas for my pre-surgical assessment. To say I was nervous would be an understatement, but I was determined not to let that get in the way. This was the start of something that I have been building up to all my life, something that, forty years ago, I would have never thought possible, a dream that would never be fulfilled but I was about to start the process that would see that dream become a reality.

When I first realised I was different around the age of five, I’d never heard of gender, nor were the words transsexual or transgender in my lexicon. I was vaguely aware of the differences between boys and girls and from this I knew, with an absolute certainty, that there was something wrong with my body. What I saw and felt didn’t fit with what my mind said it should have looked like and how it should have felt. Over the years this conflict has been at the root of so many problems but, soon, it will be resolved.

The journey down to Brighton was uneventful. Being used to long train journeys, I managed to keep myself occupied (I had my laptop) so I didn’t get totally bored. I was looking forward to arriving in Brighton as a friend, whom I hadn’t seen for quite some time, was meeting me to take me to the hospital. Arriving at Brighton, big hugs were in order when I saw Sam waiting on the platform. It was lovely to see her in real life again, rather than through the internet. We jumped into her car and off we went.

Arriving at the Nuffield, I was a bag of nerves. I was thinking to myself, ‘If I’m like this for the assessment, what am I going to be like when I do finally arrive for surgery?’. Once inside and booked in the nerves faded. I was taken upstairs to a room with several other women and given a very thick form to fill in. Afterwards, I was taken through the procedure and what to expect during my stay in hospital. I was also informed about post-surgical care, including dilation, how to do it and shown the dilators that are supplied. After that I was weighed and then went to see Mr Thomas. I had to strip from the waist down and he had a look. He decided, to my relief, that I didn’t require GHR (Genital Hair Removal), which would have added almost a year to my waiting time. Afterwards he and Liz (his head nurse) had a chat with me. I was told he had no objections to performing the surgery as I was a good candidate but, he wouldn’t give me a date until I had lost at least 10kg and brought my BMI down to at least 29 or lower. The reason being that the surgery is easier for him and recovery will be better and faster for me. It was all I could do to refrain from punching the air and shouting “YES!”. Compared to GHR, having to lose weight is far easier. I walked out of there on a cloud, my feet barely touching the ground.

Sam was almost as excited as I was when I told her the news. Finally, I was on that last mile. The end was finally in sight.

Sam dropped me off at the station. Unfortunately we couldn’t take time to catch up properly as she was in the middle of a house purchase. So we said our goodbyes, knowing that the next time we met in Brighton it would probably be for my surgery.

The journey home was almost as uneventful as the one there, although I suspect that my fellow passengers were wondering why I was constantly grinning inanely.

 

As I have been writing this, I have also been filling in the surgical consent forms to send back to Brighton. They’re all signed ready to send. I thought I may as well do them now as they weight is already falling (101kg on the 5th, 98kg today). Some changes in what I eat and how I live, small sacrifices to enable a massive change.

Let’s go…..

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 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.

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