this blog is laden with personal info, to try and increase the emotional impact of what i'm suggesting. welcome to my life story, trans issues edit!
when i was little we did not have the internet. all my information came from books, TV and radio. we only had 3 TV channels too, and BBC radio 4, which is pretty straight middle class programming.
this meant i was only exposed to a narrow selection of data. Most of it said that men were men and women were women and the differences were so great that there was no movement between the two genders.
so when i went to school at 4 and saw that there were girls as well as people like me, and that they didn't have willies, i knew i was in the wrong body. i stole a leotard so i could wear it in secret and pretend i was a girl. i must have asked my mum about the differences between girls and boys, because i knew that to talk to her about not wanting to be a boy would have been a bad idea because she thought very strongly that i was a boy.
i knew enough biology at 12 to know that hormones were responsible for the development of secondary sexual characteristics, so i stole my sister's contraceptives and ate them, hoping they transform me. if only i had known about androgen blockers, i might have begun my transition then. i did find a good book on makeup, though
when i was 15, in school biology, i learnt that in some genetic pools, there is a greater incidence of pubertal gender swapping - namely people who thought they were girls suddenly dropping testicles and growing peni. That was a pretty nightmarish idea, but i still dreamed the opposite would happen to me.
still, there was no data available to me showing me that i could, and the weight of normal programming seems inescapable. didn't stop me wearing skirts when i could, and telling everyone i trusted i wanted to be a girl (except my mum, i knew she'd disapprove, and my dad, because i wasn't so secure in his love for me).
by 18 i'd become a goth, so i could wear my hair long and wear make up and dresses and yet still be normal. i was going out to BDSM clubs in london, but still had not met a true transsexual, only crossdressers. i felt uncomfortable with them, as they were very male. especially the one who raped me. Still, despite my non-classical crossdressing, i'd not met any information that told me a sex change was possible (that's what i called it in my head). it was a not so secret dream that i had to sit on so that it wouldn't hurt me anymore. i did learn that martial arts in high heels was possible (watching michelle pfieffer as catwoman) so i got some 6 inch heeled ankle boots and practiced cartwheels. i painted myself as a girl, in bondage, on the back of my leather jacket as that's how i felt, in the chains of my male body. i explained it to anyone that asked. no one said that i could change.
i went to uni. caused a bit of a stir when i was picked for a college dating game, and showed up in full goth 'drag' (although to me it was just looking nice). i was into girls, but i guess i was a little too different when i was trying to be myself. i had such a hard time from tutors, students and staff at uni (the ever old-fashioned cambridge) that i decided after my first year that i'd give it up, and try to be normal. i cut my hair short and got into rock climbing and turned my body into a toned, slim machine. it was amazing to own this alien device that was so strong and muscly. still no idea that sex changes were possible, and by now testosterone had done its horrific work, making me 6 foot 2, broad shouldered, with a deep voice, a beard and a brow ridge. my mind had been trained by it too, to see threats and danger and assess the world like a strategy game. In my mind, i clung to the self portrait i did at 13, where i was an astronaut, with an androgynous face.
the internet got going. it started as a text based thing, and then there was graphical content as the TCP/IP stack developed and we moved into the http protocols. lots of geek content, but no information that could have helped me. i talked about my issue with a girlfriend/boyfriend couple i was sharing. one an anthropologist, the other some kind of lit student. at cambridge. neither of them suggested change was a possibility, so i guess they hadn't come across the information either. I was doing some research on neuronal pathways in a type of fish - as a sign of the times the key published paper i found that had the experimental results i was looking for was located in the back of a dusty library in the wing of an obscure department. i was thrilled to have tracked it down.
now i'm 23. living in london, working at the institue of psychiatry, of all places. Taking drugs like acid and ecstasy to provide escape from the world; to give me a mental playground to get lost in, to avoid the suicidal despair that held my life, as i felt my dream of being a mum slipping away with every day. I paint over the girl in bondage with an image first created by an inmate at bedlam, now the bethlem and maudsley trust. it is a UV psychedelic cheshire cat, and its eyes blink when the light changes. i met a girl, who was deeply connected to the LBG london scene, and told her everything. we talk a lot, but still no idea that a sex change could be real. there were not the role models. no information. the only hint was a newspaper article in the SUN, saying how a bond girl was once a man. i read it like it was manna, searching the girl's face to see if i could find signs of the truth of the article. it was in the SUN, a sensationalist rag known for its tall tales and breasts on page 2. still, it sparked some hope. perhaps it could be real?
my partner had a body issue that required surgery, lots of excess skin from losing lots of weight. it got me into the idea that surgery could transform your body. i fantasised about how it would work for me, but couldn't figure it out - i really wanted a womb, and the thought of not being able to have babies was depressing.we lived together for ages, we were in love. she even got pregnant. this was the best thing ever for me, as that's all i'd wanted, but she decided to abort. it broke my heart, and also my will to keep trying to be a man. it was so unfair if it had been the right way around it would have been my body, and my choice. it made being a guy even more heartbreaking.
the internet had got going by now, we were still using libraries to access research publications, but computer geeks and scientists were using it as a big info exchange medium, and even the newspapers were getting in there. still no google, but it wasn't far away. so i started looking, using webcrawler, to find out more. somehow managed to not find any news groups on the subject. (news groups seem to have vanished these days)
a couple of years later and i've found the information i'm seeking. i've learnt that a sex change was a possibility. i'm torn. its all i wanted, ever, but it means i can't have children. i meet a new partner, who later becomes my wife (we get married after i've changed my name). she knows everything from the start - the first time we go clubbing together i'm in my favorite silver dress and sparkly collar, because it looks and makes me feel fabulous. we plan our future. our children, my sex change. i stop taking drugs. i go to my doctor and get the hormones i need. its a godsend. testosterone stops and my mind is freed from its evil grip. i start oestrogen, and it makes me feel right, in a way ecstasy almost did. I'm offered cognitive behavioral therapy but quickly decide with the therapist that its not what i need, since there is nothing wrong with me that SRS wouldn't fix. i meet my FIRST transsexual, in passing, at the GID. they scare me, as they look very male and very unhappy. i'm afraid i do too. We get married and i store sperm for our future children. i have surgery. i meet my second transsexual at the hospital in thailand, a lovely woman from australia. theres a lot of scary people there too, who remind me of my secret fear - that i'm a deluded guy. and then i have to get used to not being a guy anymore, and forgetting and unlearning years of social conditioning, struggling with my looks, with my adam's apple and male hips, male face.
from the time of me finding the information i needed to the time that i had surgery was about 2.5 years, which included waiting times and passing through charing cross's gender identity clinic, following the correct channels just in case i was mad (and who could blame me for a little doubt, given that this was my childhood dream made manifest?). 2.5 years. about a 2 month gap from when i found the information to when i made my mind up and went to the doctor. i wonder what the average lead time is for other true transsexuals?
the critical factor in this whole process was the availability of information. The same is, i would suggest, true for many of the older-transitioning transsexuals. If i had known what i knew at 25 at the age of 4 i would have told my parents. if i had known at the age of 8, i would have nagged them, and explained the social unease i felt at being the wrong sex (sex is now a bad word to use, and we are supposed to say gender, but that is the word i knew at 8). if i had known at 11, i'd have saved for hormones and not my first computer. if i had known at 13, i would have demanded androcur and estrogen. etc.
so. with the internet now alive and kicking, with information out everywhere, on youtube, on TV, in newspapers etc. how many trans children are going to be as naive as me? how many are going to sit there and type in "can a man become a woman" instead, and learn what they need to know really young? i'm guessing lots of kids are going to learn early, and get to do something about it young.
there's one girl in the miss uk competition, who transitioned at 10 and had surgery at 16. she's beautiful, because she didn't have to go through male puberty. she is blessed, and many more trans kids are going to be blessed that we live now, and not 20 years ago. the information is available to both us and our parents and the medical system that needs to help us.
the internet has transformed the world, and hopefully it will help transform many young transsexuals, so they can fit into their desired sex without suffering from so many of the problem associated with late transition. who in their right mind would put it off, once they know it is available?
i think this will have a further effect. it will widen the unspoken gap between 'true transsexuals' - the ones who recognise the gender binary (ie, that there are men, and there are women, and apart from the rare interex case, they are the two genders we have) - and the 'transgender' group, which includes straight and gay crossdressers, and a slew of non-binary acknowledging 'genderqueer' people.
for a long time, we have been grouped under an 'umbrella'. As less pre/post op true transsexuals exhibit male phenotypes but instead pass effortlessly, because their bodies never make that fateful male pubertal change, the visual similarities between the two groups will disappear. post-trans women will look and sound exactly like women. their bodies will be totally congruous with their minds. and the hold these gender queer groups have on our unique identity and unique path with be loosened. the general public will look at us and see women, and look at the TVs, CDs and genderqueer and see them as they are, and it will be obvious that we are not the same.
maybe then, we'll get more sympathy and less PC/discrimination fear based responses from the big wide world. Perhaps legislation will start to make sense and health care systems will be geared for helping us early.
i can't speak for everyone, but my dream didn't include me standing out. i simply wanted to be a normal part of the world, making babies and loving someone. I wanted to be transformed into and accepted as a woman, because i was. the only thing that stopped me was lack of information. i hope those of us who are born in the wrong sexed bodies in the future will have the chance to achieve their dreams. early.