Saturday, 28 February 2015

Does being trans really wreck your life?

I had a lot of reaction to my last post, mainly from friends via Facebook. The main query which arose was if being trans had really wrecked my life.

Well, given that most (we assume most) people just get on with being boys or girls, a few (we assume) have the eternal trouble of puzzling why they don't really feel comfortable in their allotted gender. For my part I have spent time each and every single day without exception since I was a toddler wondering if I'm really some kind of girl. Friends who aren't trans have marvelled that the issue should occupy any time at all, let alone so much of it.

On the strength of this I think that my life has been unduly odd and unfair. I have tried as much as possible in this blog to show other trans people and the world in general that you can make lemonade when life gives you lemons, that you can make something of this strange situation and be happy in it. That is, in part, up to you with the resources you have, be they emotional, material, or other. But, frankly, life would have been so much less stressful, fearful, exhausting, costly and weird if I hadn't been trans. The expense of having two wardrobes, the continuing fear of discovery by the wrong persons, the lack of official recognition and general understanding, the constant colouring of my thoughts and my interactions with others ... Why me? I guess what convinces me most that being trans, in any of its varied forms, is not a mental health disorder or perversion or lifestyle choice is the fact that I, like lots of others, don't want it and yet nothing I have ever done to change it, ignore it, or shake it has ever had the slightest long-term effect, unlike any other aspect of my life. I've changed everything else - views, location, decor, style, pastimes, etc. - but never this. Just like I'm unable to change my shoe size or height, much as I'd like to do that.

To cap this distress, five years after finally making it out into the big wide world and living and being treated as a woman, I now have a health condition that makes it impossible to do so. This is more than a blow. It's like Someone really really hates me.

Let us not forget the distress and depression, the dysphoria, the rejection, the abuse, threats and increased risk of violence that so many trans people suffer.

So what's good about being trans? Well, you do see things differently. To say "I see things from a woman's perspective" would be arrogant and false and I don't like it when some TGirls say this. That's not even something easily defined either. But I do distinctly have a less masculine approach, attitude and behaviour than average and my female friends (ones who know or knew only one side of me) marvel at some of the things I know about makeup and fashion and what the women's magazines are saying. Is that good? Maybe. I find women, in broad general terms, more giving and caring, more enjoyable company with more laughs and more thoughtful about important things in life like relationships and health rather than men's obsession with the footie score or career progression or statistics. That's a very brief and generalised observation, of course (through lack of time and space). Is that good? I don't know, but I like it. And I also like the better interaction I get from the public. People treat me better as a TGirl than they do as a guy. Maybe if I was 100% female they'd treat me really well. Most natal women would disagree at this point, I don't doubt. And the fact is I like things traditionally associated with femininity: flowers and soft fabrics, shades of pink, gracefulness ... a cliche maybe, but it's what I prefer. I also and obviously so much prefer women's clothes; being petite they fit me perfectly and are more comfortable and colourful and nicer to wear than men's scratchy, dull and samey stuff. Besides, my clothes are to me a badge of the club I'd rather be in. I've dressed as a woman most of my life, initially whenever I could get the chance, but in the last 20 years it's been every day and just the morning ritual of choosing something soft, comfortable and pretty makes me happy. It's always made me happy because it seems like the right thing to do to look better, feel right and say "hey, I'd like to be treated as a woman".

But then we come back to why that's a rare and weird thought.

Being trans has its joys. I do try to concentrate on those since it'd be better to enjoy this odd life than hate it. But I can never help wondering if it wouldn't have been better, certainly simpler, to have just been able to get on with life without this whole enormous difference in behaviour, outlook and treatment.

Sue x


Saturday, 21 February 2015

How many of us are there?

I've been wondering for years how many people are trans.

In many ways, the problem is unanswerable because it's a question of degree. Some people may crossdress for a short while in their life, or very occasionally, or merely wonder about expressing their gender differently; others have to transition fully.

and a few who transition

I've heard figures of 1 to 1.5% bandied about. It's impossible to know, of course, since what is clear is that the overwhelming majority do not go out of the house or live a day-to-day life in their chosen gender. I'm unusual in that I do, but given how hard it is to meet up with other like individuals, I can only conclude that those at the publicly-visible end of the spectrum are few and far between. I call this phenomenon the Transberg - like an iceberg whose bulk is almost completely hidden underwater, where passing shipping can't see it. (I'll draw a picture of a Transberg one day.)

Britain has a population of 63 million (officially). Statistics seem to show that a few hundred a year transition here, and that the total number who live after transition seems to be 6000 - 8000 individuals. Or roughly 1 in 10,000 of the population. But given the earlier statistic I quoted, this is only about 1% of the total estimated (i.e. guessed) trans population.

Various people have had a stab at assessing our numbers. Some of those people are driven by an activist/political agenda which makes their statistics suspect, rather like reading tobacco industry funded research into smokers' health. Others use intelligent guesswork based on what appears online. My own feeling is that gender is fluid and changes throughout an individual's life so they may fall in and out of the definition at different times (or would they still count as trans in perpetuity?). As I've mentioned here before, I've been trans for ever, but the degree of it does vary from year to year and season to season. One of my own sisters was a real tomboy when aged about 4, and she can be a little boyish in style even now. But is that a sign of being trans? She's always had some feminist views in her teen/adult years and her current style may be a demonstration of those, rather than any trans aspect manifesting itself.

It's irritating not to know the answer to this question as it would help inform society. But given the fear of ridicule most trans people in the West have, which keeps them hidden away at home or in hotel rooms, rarely even telling their spouses, family or friends, I wonder if we will ever be able to know.

Why is it important to know? I think it helps demonstrate that we're not rare or weird. Supposing we could say, "Look, this school has 500 pupils aged 13-18, so by the law of averages 5 of them will be trans, one in each year". Or, "This football stadium is filled with 70,000 fans. Seven of them are transitioning/have transitioned and seven hundred are trans in one way or another". Just by way of examples. It makes the reality more immediate to everyone. And shows that the likelihood of a trans person living in your street, working in your office, attending your college/club/church etc. is quite high (or possibly quite low, depending on the elusive answer).

Here's a science article (from the respected journal Nature) mainly about intersex conditions. It offers tantalising glimpses into potential explanations for intersex and even trans conditions (none of them new). But as some of the readers' comments rightly point out, a few cases (almost anecdotal) do not a theory make, especially when intersex activists wish for an outcome and use the slenderest evidence to back their ideas.

There really is no comprehensive scientific literature on trans matters at all, involving large-scale, double-blind trials and robust conclusions, just these little snippets of possibility. We are therefore mainly left with some rather old conclusions of psychologists, who influence our policy makers and health professionals, and who think transness is a mental disorder (and some of my trans friends agree with this, including a biologist whose opinions I necessarily respect). Like most trans people, though, I don't think my trans status derives from my thinking or mental state at all - though there's obviously a two-way communication going on between my body and my mind - but from something fundamental and innate. But how can I know? How can I be sure? As yet, I can't, and this is frustrating as I'd like to say to people "Look, I'm trans because ... my hormone balance/genetic makeup/mental state/etc. ... is such-and-such." I did take part in a study some years ago that yielded some interesting results (basically, we trans folk each develop through life in a very similar way, despite being distanced from one another, which suggests that transness is something innate rather than influenced from outside). Sadly, the persons directing that study also have strong political views and a trans promotional agenda so - like those tobacco industry researches - their conclusions, even though properly peer-reviewed, need to be considered cautiously.

I remain frustrated in my quest to know why I am trans. Frankly, this condition/existence/state/manifestation - describe it how you will - has wrecked my life, not because it itself is a problem, but because people in my society (including me) - and, I guess, in just about every other society - don't know why this trans 'thing' happens.

All I can say at the moment, like Stonewall, is "some people are trans - get over it!" But that's also a failure: a failure to understand, to research, to conclude, and so to support in any real way.

I'm trans. I live with that. I wish I wasn't. I live with that, too.

Sue x

Friday, 13 February 2015

Lilies in winter

There’s not been a lot to report as life ticks along. The weather is cold, grey and wet, but then it is February. Warm tights are a must, girls. But the evening are staying light till later and snowdrops are out and I can see crocuses and daffodils beginning to poke up out of the earth. I really don’t like winter so any signs of spring are always welcome. One lovely thing is a beautiful vase of purple lilies that was delivered to me as a gift from a friend. Their aroma is warm and heady and they are a beautiful sight.

I said I’d check my face after an arbitrary six weeks were up after New Year and unfortunately the eczema that has prevented my wearing makeup and therefore going out en femme is not good at the moment so I will just have to be patient. On the plus side (or do I mean the minus side), I have lost a little more weight. I hope to have lost a full stone by the end of February (that’s 6.5 kg to metrics).

Last month I completed my tax return, and on time too. According to our revenue ministry's propaganda, I should now have found inner peace. I haven’t and so I will have one or two things to say about that in another post. I also would like to impart some advice on bullying at work since several of my TGirlfriends are complaining of this at the moment and I hope to be able to provide some pointers and advice based on my own experiences and after becoming a workplace bullying adviser. Given how much of our waking lives we spend at work, we cannot afford to be miserable there.

Wishing you all a good weekend.

Sue x