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Category Archives: Gender transition
Make Me New
by Tamlyn Ailsa MacPherson
Take my deformity, throw down the clay.
Push me and pinch me, and mould me this way.
Take what was unsightly and cast away;
Turn white to black and night to day.
For I am the living, I am the dead.
I am the spider and the fly.
I am the block and, upon it, the head.
I am the killer and I die.
Cut me up, a traitor’s fate;
so the poison will drain from me.
Guide me here from traitor’s gate
and may your blade fall sharply.
Look upon me this last day,
then banish me from sight.
I am the dawn that finds its way
and chases clear the night.
I am sorrow, and yet joy;
I am pain and I am pleasure.
I am ornament, I am toy,
I am burden, I am treasure.
I am devout and I am heathen,
I will shout and you shall listen.
Potter, throw me upon your wheel
and pinch and push me ’til I’m real.
Cut and shape my fragile frame
then bake me strong with searing flame.
From the little slimy lump you threw,
you make me real;
You make me new.
My last few posts have been pretty heavy, so I’m going for something lighter.
Before I started my transition, I gave my biology a bloody good chance to prove itself tolerable. It did not, even though male biology is relatively straightforward. So what chance did I have for the cultural aspect of being male? None whatsoever! Typical societal expectations for masculine behavior have thrown up some strange anomalies that even a lot of men I know don’t get. I’m sure they click with the prototypical male on some level of nature but they are just baffling to me. Even being ‘part of the club’ for those unhappy years, left me none the wiser as to the merits of the following behavioral trends.
1) Trousers: Or more accurately the exclusivity of trousers (my Celtic brethren excluded). With the ill-thought out design of the male equipment, wouldn’t skirts make for a more comfortable option (speaking from my experience, yes it would)? Whilst trousers are practical for manual working or exercise, I didn’t understand the practicalities of having to tuck oneself down one leg or the other. It’s just uncomfortable! Seam on seam is enough to get anyone cranky. Wearing skirts as a fashion option would just be far more chilled out.
2) Machismo: All this puffing up and having to be the alpha male. It’s just exhausting and stressful. I never understood what it achieved. It’s not like it gives feeding priority or first mating choices any more.
3) War fantasies: What’s with all this getting hard over mass death and destruction? Seriously?
4) Standing to pee: If those war fantasies have taught you nothing else, it’s that the further away from the target you are, the less likely you are to hit it. If you’re peeing in the wild, wind allowing, it makes little difference, but when sharing a bathroom why not be considerate and just sit down? You may not think you miss, but seriously, you miss.
“You keep leaving the seat up!”
“I don’t wanna get piss on it!”
“You STILL get piss on it!”
5) Sex: Seeing sex from a typically male perspective to me always felt kind of impersonal, like an itch that needed scratching. Sensitivity and attention to a partner’s needs were always seen as ‘poofy’ in the typical male mindset, yet great umbridge tended to be taken if the direct ‘jackhammer’ approach left their partner disappointed and unsatisfied.
“You must have enjoyed it, you’re walking funny!”
“No, I think you just compacted my spine!”
“You’re just frigid!”
6) Short hair: Personal choice, all well and good, but like trousers it’s the compulsory nature of it. A guy grows his hair long and it stunts his chances at job interviews, and draws the ridicule of fellow male. In a world where a hairy chest is the pinnacle of masculinity, why are guys so obsessed with keeping the hair on their head so short? Oh, and then, they have a breakdown when it starts to fall out. It always baffled me to see guys with half an inch of hair, taking an hour to ‘style’ it with all sorts of gels and creams when the only effect it really has is to make people ask them if it’s still raining outside. I used to wash and condition my waist length blonde hair, brush it and blow dry it in about half that time and them spend the whole evening out having girls coming up and wanting to play with it, all the time getting called a ‘poof’ by the Brylcream brigade.
7) FOOOOOOTBAAAAAALLL!!!!!: Nope, just don’t get it. At all. I understand the game, but the appeal is utterly lost on me. It’s the culture around it, more than the game, that I don’t like. It’s crass, homophobic, misogynistic and corrupt as hell. Like UKIP but a sport.
I know there are women who like football, but there’s not the same expectation to. Too complicated for the tiny female brain to understand you see!
8) Nicknames: You don’t often get people putting their female friends in their phone under names like ‘Bellend Kev’, ‘John Gutrot’ or ‘Herpes Pete’.
“Why’s he called ‘Herpes’ Pete?”
“He had a spot on his lip once!”
“How does he feel about that name?”
“Oh, even his mum calls him it!”
9) Penis power: “BY THE POWER OF GREYSKULL… I HAVE THE PENIS!!!!”
It’s ugly, ungainly, gets caught in things and is never where it needs to be, yet it is the key to majority representation in parliament, entitlement to talk over people without one and, according to a lot of guys, the most important part of their body.
“I’d rather die than have MY dick cut off!”
“Well severing the brainstem is usually fatal…”
10) Homophobia: We’re not talking about severe homophobia here (That’s a different, far more serious matter) but casual homophobia (which actually buoys up the more serious incarnation of said attitudes). It’s the casual dismissal of something or someone as ‘poofy’ or ‘gay’ like it’s the worst thing ever. Hello? It’s okay to fantasise about killing people, have disregard for a woman’s sexual gratification and piss on the toilet rim/seat/floor, but a little man-on-man affection is the grossest thing ever?
“Gays disgust me, Gutrot!”
“Yeah, Fuckin’ gays! Disgusting Bellend!”
“…Lesbians are alright thought!”
“Yeah Lesbians are fucking cool. I’d fuck a lesbian!”
I guess I just never really understood why society hung on to these things as ‘masculine’ traits. They’re not inherently male things, they just encourage nice guys to act like dicks. Hats off to all you chaps who haven’t bowed to the modern tragedy of gender norms. I see your numbers are increasing. Good show!
When I first came out to my parents, my mother told me that it was as if I had died. It was like the son she had raised and loved for three decades of her life had been taken away from her; lost forever, consigned to memory while this new person had swept in and taken his place. Sure she has all his memories and experiences, but she isn’t him. She isn’t the son that was loved so unconditionally. Instead of a cold, depressive, neurotic introvert, there is this wide eyed, expressive woman who smiles lots and sometimes cries at silly things. My mother said that she was in mourning for her eldest son, and that affected me deeply. I felt like a murderer. Sometimes I still do.
What is, from my point of view, a blossoming or transformation into who I feel I should have always been, to others seemingly appears to be more like a schizophrenic breakdown as the person they knew so well radically transforms in body, voice and expression into someone else.
Indeed, there were several people I know, whose initial reaction upon my coming out to them was to tell me that I wasn’t Trans, and proceeded to lecture me as to what ‘Trans’ actually was, like I was ignorant of what I was really saying. There were one or two who would say nothing to my face, but I would find out that behind my back, they were saying that I was only doing it to get attention and that I’d get bored of it. Others would be all ‘Nicey-nicey’ to me, and yet, behind my back and to other friends describe me in the most unflattering and insulting terms.
I found myself repeatedly ostracised and left out of things because people were apparently too embarrassed to be seen with me, and still everyone was still nice to my face. Friends I had known for a long time wanted nothing to do with me and seemingly punished me because they were worried about how other people might react to them should they see me with them.
People who I had always defended against any negative comments or nasty rumours have kept quiet and let the nastiness carry on behind my back. People whom I have supported in their times of need, suddenly become utterly absent in mine. I have had people insist on referring to my ‘Gender Identity’ as a ‘Lifestyle Choice’, like it’s a fashion trend.
I have been asked to ‘tone it down’ in front of other people. With my modest dress sense and keeping relatively to myself in public, I do not know what exactly I am supposed to ‘tone down’, save for presenting as female in general. I have had to listen to people verbally attacking other Trans people I know behind their backs for the way that they dress or act, even going as far as to say that they would like to punch them, or that they deserve to be assaulted for it.
I have been accused of talking about nothing but Trans and LGBT issues by people who never seem to talk about anything other than how much they hate their jobs, or how much they hate someone they work with or know.
I had nearly ten months of hardly speaking to a certain member of my family because they didn’t know how to deal with it, and they still won’t acknowledge me on Facebook even now, seemingly in case their friends see me and realise what is going on.
In December, ten days before Christmas, a very close family member was diagnosed with a very serious illness. Someone that I had bereaved by taking away someone they loved only ten months before was now seriously ill. I did not know how much time I might have with them, and the guilt hit me. I couldn’t help but wonder if the first Christmas I would spend with them as me, would also be our last. While my relationship with them is the strongest it has been for as long as I cannot remember, the emotional toll such an illness has on family members is so often overlooked, and to be so far from them in a geographical sense makes things all the more upsetting and frustrating when I cannot just pop in and see them, or go and help with taking them shopping or to medical appointments. In this situation, one needs friends to turn to.
So this is the toll of Transition. SOME people you care for stop caring for you, SOME people you defended attack you, SOME people you respect treat you like a joke, and SOME people who you would support will drop you. Why? It could be all manner of things. Prejudice, confusion, incomprehension, resentment, grief. The cause is ultimately meaningless, it is the result that matters. It is quite simple to say that one does not need that in one’s life, but the reality of losing friends, especially in a time where you need emotional support, is a soul crushing experience.
Fortunately a handful of friends still care and are the most wonderful and supportive people in the world for me, and there is my partner who is a rock. I can go to these people when I need to rant or cry or just be distracted and they welcome me without judgment or a dagger behind their back. There are also other friends I have made since starting my transition who I cannot imagine living my life without, and the acceptance of most of my family which has been of great comfort, and I have reconnected with other friends thought long lost. This is a new chapter in my life for friendships and relationships, and the best thing to do is to leave behind those to whom I mean so little now.
After all, the person they counted as their friend, to their minds, isn’t me.
1) People think you’re gay.
Not everyone of course, but the side-effect of being lumped in with the LGB lot, is that it gives the impression that being Trans is a sexual preference. It doesn’t help either, the similarity of the language… ‘Homosexual’, ‘Transsexual’…means that it is easy to infer a greater relationship between them than actually exists. As frustrating as this is, one must understand that some people don’t know better because they have never been told better. Getting stroppy with someone for not knowing something is going to have no positive effect and could easily cost you, or the community at large, an ally. Facts must be faced, it’s not an easy ride, but it’s easier than past generations of trans people had, and we need to make it easier for future generations, even if that means answering a few uncomfortable questions with grace, gentleness, generosity and a little swearing as possible.
2) High Heels Hurt (I know, I know I say this all the time)
A no brainer here, but if you insist on wearing heels (and who doesn’t want to every now and then, they look amazing) you’ll need all sorts of foot care products to deal with aches, pains, cramps, blisters, cuts, scuffs and sprains. Also, just because you can make it to the corner shop in stiletto heels, doesn’t mean you’ll make it into town and back as easily. Carry flats in your bags.
3) Lipstick is impractical
All those images of models and movie stars with the cherry red pristine lips that you idolise, are just LIES!!! Lipstick looks amazing, but as soon as you try to eat something or drink something, it’s bye-bye perfection, hello smudges, smears and stains. Do you bite your lip when you think too hard or when you get nervous? Congratulations, it’s all over your teeth. Do you plan to kiss anyone… anything from a peck on the cheek to a full on Parisian tongue wrestle means someone else is wearing as much of it as you are. Of course there are certain water proof or ‘kiss proof’ lipsticks available, but even then they wear off. Women constantly checking themselves in mirrors does not stem from vanity, so much as anxiety that their makeup has gone from Bardot the actress, to Bobo the clown. They say that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, but that is also the price of not looking like a circus act. Keep the lippy for special occasions. Gloss makes you look just as kissable without anywhere near the amount of mess or embarrassment.
4) Your idea of a ‘dumb question’ is not always the same as someone else’s idea of a ‘dumb question’.
Remember asking where babies come from or why it rains? It might seem a dumb question now, but at the time you didn’t know these things, they felt relevant and important. I’m not saying that we should have to justify ourselves to anyone, or allow ourselves to be put on the spot and humiliated, but we must learn to judge a question based in the spirit in which it is asked, as opposed to the content of the inquiry. Treating someone who just wants to understand something that’s never been explained to them properly, or that is completely new to them, the same as you would some leery arsehole out to embarrass and ridicule you, is a great way of alienating someone who could otherwise become an ally. The best way to identify someone’s intention is to work out who is in control of the conversation. If you do not wish to answer any questions, politely explain that it is a deeply personal thing and something you do not wish to discuss.
5) Julie Burchill is a bitch
Julie is of course not alone in the media, but at time of writing she is the most visible critic of Trans people (Transwomen especially). Her rhetoric is not based on the politics of the Trans community, or on the behaviour of individual Trans people, but on sweeping generalisations about Trans women, and her belief that Transwomen have no right to be recognised as ‘real’ women, even to the extent of deliberately using male pronouns for trans women. Burchill is a self-described ‘Militant Feminist’ that believes that natal women suffer in a society that is heavily biased, but Trans people don’t because we are all just ‘Big white guys who’ve had our cocks cut off’. Basically she makes all feminists look like dicks, many of whom are actually strong allies of Transwomen. Her comments however, are unacceptable and so are similar comments by other writers and should always be referred to the press complaints commission with citation. She is the 20th century equivalent of an internet troll, and feeding her just makes her worse. The only way to remove such hatred is my mobilising together and going through official channels to have her access to her outlets revoked.
6) Hormones make you fatter
There’s science and shit behind this one, but I shan’t bore you with it. Testosterone helps you build muscle, Estrogen makes you store fat. It’s why healthy women are naturally curvier and have a higher body fat percentage than men of equal fitness. It is also why women have a lower RDA of fat, calories and carbohydrates than men. You will quickly develop a female metabolism, so you will need to adjust your lifestyle accordingly. I learned the hard way.
7) Monumental, irreversible changes sneak up on you.
I’m not talking the wait for GRS. I’m not even necessarily talking physical changes. Your relationships with people change. You can put off telling your parents or your friends but there will be a point in your transition where you have to make that change and there is no going back. One of the hardest for me, however, was in deciding whether or not to preserve stuff to have children in the future. That decision is not there to be made as you approach surgery, you have to make it before you even start HRT. Another thing about living in the UK, is that the NHS does not cover these fertility services. You will need at least £450 up front to access these services, and that gives you the initial treatment, plus a year’s storage, with storage fees being renewed on a yearly basis. That is a lot of money to suddenly realise you need.
8) White guys are the worst for hassle.
Sorry white guys. Many of you are lovely, considerate, tender, loving and compassionate, but hear a snide remark, a mutter of ‘That’s a fucking bloke’ or Hurr-Hurr-Hurr…Tranny!’, and the vast majority of the time (We’re talking 98%-99%) it is a white British male, with a friend or group of friends, aged late teens to about mid-thirties. They are the reason we need to be PR conscious as in points 1 and 4, so that other people will pay no attention, or even possibly chastise them for their behaviour. Challenging prejudice against a minority group is always taken more seriously when the challenge is from outside the minority group itself… tragic huh?
9) Women ask your advice about men.
“You were once a bloke right? Why do men…” Sometimes you know the answer, sometimes you don’t but that opening statement still knocks you for six. Just remember to be polite about how you tell someone that you are offended. If of course you are not offended, anything you can do to ease communication across the (mostly artificially created) gender divide will be another baby step towards global harmony.
Lying in bed at night, unable to sleep as you feel your prostate shrinking, or your breasts growing is not a pleasant experience. Seriously, with the prostate thing, it’s like something is trying to tunnel through you. Neurofen is your friend. Anyone who is sceptical about someone’s desire to transition, should have a couple of months on HRT. I imagine that this is the point where most who are going to turn back would do so.