Am I really a trans woman? (part 4)

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to start this part. I think I’ve been putting it off. Partly because it’s the hardest part, and partly because I’ve not been sure what to say.

This part was meant to be about the wider implications of the things I covered in the first three parts. But it’s so vast I’m not really sure where to begin.

In part 1 ( I covered how I’m quite comfortable with the fact that I’m biologically male. In part 2 ( I discussed how much of gender is social construct and in part 3 (  I acknowledged that EVERY victim of male violence must be cared for in the best way for them.

Having reread part 2, I realise that I only really scratched the surface of how I feel. I’ve also realised that what it means to be trans is different to everybody I speak to. 

I was having this conversation with a gay male friend the other night. We were discussing gender being a social construct, that all behaviours, emotions, traits and characteristics should be perceived as being as normal for males and as normal for females. We started to discuss what we meant by this and realised that we are so similar in pretty much every way but one. We hold the same values, feelings, compassion, interests etc, etc. The only difference we really couldn’t explain was that he had a deep internal identification as male and would be absolutely mortified if if anything happened to his physical masculinity. Whereas I have a deep feeling that my body and my appearance just isn’t right. I’m avoiding saying that I feel female because it’s easy to attack that phrase. I’m erasing women by reducing it to a feeling in a mans head. I’m reinforcing gender. If only I could accept that it’s OK to be me and be a man – it’s only society’s expectations of gender that make me uncomfortable with that.

But even knowing all of that, I can’t escape the deep unswerving sense that I’m not a man. That I’m a woman, and that it’s more than just an identification with a socially constructed role. It’s more than a rejection of masculinity and I really can’t explain it.

I’m not trying to appropriate, commandeer, steal, or infiltrate womanhood. I’m quite clear that a trans woman is different in many ways to a woman. I really wish I could explain how it feels.

I heard someone say that transition is a choice and that saying that it isn’t is dangerous. I have to disagree with the sentiment of this comment. Of course there is always a choice, but sometimes we have to make the best of bad choices. I fought against my internal feelings for decades. Because of social rejection and contempt for trannies or gender benders, the laughing stock of society, I was so deeply, deeply ashamed of how I felt that I hid it and suppressed it and did everything I could to not be it and to be a man. I did the things that society expects of the male gender role. A few years ago, I realised that I couldn’t go on with the internalised shame that I had carried for so long, and I started to accept myself as trans. I wasn’t sure trans what. I actually didn’t know much about the vast spectrum that is trans, but I started to accept that whatever I was, I didn’t deserve to live with the deep internalised shame I had.

I have a very simple moral code. Don’t harm anyone – physically or emotionally. And do what you can to prevent harm to others. I’d always tried to live by that code, not always successfully, but I certainly always did everything I could to. So it was time to start accepting myself and dealing with the shame. I started to explore my gender issues and started by going to a Trans* social club in the North of England. I met so many people and started to see how vast the trans umbrella is. And if I’m honest I was shocked. I met heterosexual men who got a kick from dressing like a slut (sorry, I know that word is problematic but I hope it’s a shorthand that will help you to understand what I’m picturing). I met cissies – typically older guys in what I can only describe as Little Bo Peep dresses. I met some people who identified as crossdressers and who were wonderful, lovely gentle caring people and I’m proud to count amongst my friends. I met others who identified as cross dressers who just seem like men in dresses and made me feel uncomfortable.

I met people who I identified with. People who just wanted to get on with their lives without the shame and lies. To be able to open up and expose their true personalities and drop the facade. People who identified as transsexual women. For these people it was so much more than physical presentation, or not feeling manly enough.

I’ve also met people who identify as transsexual women that I just don’t see as women. To me they seem very much like some of the crossdressers I’ve encountered. Heterosexual men  who still act like misogynists and who, controversially, I consider to be autogynephylic. Now saying these things makes me uncomfortable for many reasons. I sound like a right cow and I sound holier than thou. I’m not assigning value or judgement to these different groups of people I’ve described (and these groups are enormously oversimplified). I’m just acknowledging that the trans umbrella is wide and diverse and what it means to be trans is different to everyone.

Where was I going? Ah yes, Choice. Once I’d started to work past my shame, things started to get pretty messed up. I started to become increasingly upset at my physical being. The thoughts of doing anything and everything to change that, laser hair removal, hormones surgery, etc, etc started to take over my thoughts. Constantly and unrelentingly. And this was a problem for me. A very big problem. If I acted on any of this, I would be going against my moral code. That would surely cause emotional harm to the people I loved the most. So I fought it and fought it and fought it. I wanted to make it go away. I NEEDED to make these feelings go away. And I started therapy. And I still couldn’t make it  go away. The feelings got more and more intense and I became deeply depressed. Between the dysphoria becoming more and more consuming and my need to not harm those around me, my little brain just couldn’t cope. I wanted to kill myself. I had reached the summit of transsexual cliché. Sorry it’s just that it is a cliché. Sometimes I feel it’s like a badge of honour. “I’ve been suicidally depressed so I’m a proper TS now.” But the reality is that so many of us get there. Over the Christmas period a couple of years ago, I came close to ending it all three times.

So that’s when I had to make my choice. I’m really not overstating it when I say that my choice was between killing myself or allowing myself to start to do things to relieve the dysphoria. So yes I had a choice. And I chose what I believe was the least bad option.

So I haven’t covered the wider implications at all. That will have to be another day.

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