Friday, April 27, 2012

the real life test

it used to be that a prospective candidate for SRS, or 'sex change' surgery had to pass a 2 year "real life test". the idea was that she legally changed her name and lived full-time as a woman.  She had to either have a job, study or be in some way socially integrated and function as a female. I suppose this was to weed out those who would not be able to cope with a permanent change in sex and gender role. We were allowed hormones and testosterone blockers, and we supposedly given a lot of support (i saw the psychiatrists at charing cross GID three times. once at the outset, and twice towards the end for the paper signing and clearing for surgery).

Those of us who didn't pass well would have had a hard time, and i wonder how many gave up and decided to live as men, after all. It was a reality check. Out in the real world, could we survive? could we cope? it was a taste of what would be a permanent way of life, post surgery.

in NZ, the gatekeepers seem to expect people to start this test WITHOUT hormones, which seems unduly difficult. 

Dr Richard Green (who was horrid, and one of my 'gatekeepers') said: "it is advisable to postpone your testing of the new identity until the hormones administered by your physician produce adequate physical changes."

Testosterone is a significant hormone. It has physiological and psychological effects. the pattern of muscle deposition, metabolic rates, responses to stress, mating behaviors etc. The effect on one's mind is immense, and the effect of removing it even more so. the flavor of the world changes. the shape of it, the texture of it, the feel of the world, all change immensely when testosterone is removed. For me, turning the stuff off was like being let out of jail - a constant, ill-fitting, twisting of my perception was taken away, and the world finally started to fall into the right place.

Testosterone also plays a significant role in non-conscious social interactions. Our Pheromone system is far more significant than most people realize. We are constantly sampling our DNA and expressing it via our scent glands, and constantly sampling other's pheromone releases and analyzing it for reproductive fitness. These systems are facilitated by sex hormones. So, if you have a testosterone driven hormonal physiology, then you will read as male on a deep, subconscious level. Essentially, you are outed before you are even seen.

Why on earth a woman should be forced to pass a real life test prior to accessing hormone blockers is beyond me. It seems criminal - especially as the delay in access can be up to 10 months. For a pubescent TS woman, that is the difference between gaining irreversibly positively male forehead, cheekbones, facial hair, jaw, hands, shoulders, height, voice, chest hair, musculature, pelvis and feet  and avoiding the physical ravages of male puberty. It is the difference between a lifetime of standing out, being obviously different and passing easily. It is criminal to deny access to T blockers.

Oestrogen is also a significant hormone. think about what effects testosterone and estrogen have during puberty. children become men and women. The effects are undeniable and life changing.
Oestrogen also changes physiology and psychology. It plays in balance with progesterone to change one's responses to others. as the balance between the two alters, we change from nesting behavior to mating behavior to social behavior to family seeking. Very few people realize how much and how strongly this occurs. A common cause of relationship breakdown is when a woman stops taking birth control, and suddenly she finds she doesn't like her partner any more. This is exceptionally well studied in mice, who have a large vomeronasal organ, which mediates the pheromonal processes. Quite simply, their partners stop smelling right, and out they must go.
When taking estrogen, you start to 'smell' female. it helps you fit into a group of females and changes the way males view you.

Physiologically estrogen changes the texture and 'glow' of your skin. it changes the way fat is deposited. it softens sharp curves and alters muscle structure. eventually it promotes breast growth, changes in body hair and causes the typical female body shape to grow (although it does not alter the skeletal form once age related growth has stopped). It really helps in 'passing'.

So, again, why a woman should be expected to have any success in 'passing' without the aid of estrogen is beyond me. It is a cruel and unusual form of torture, and i think it should be illegal.

Indeed, there is little evidence that a real life test is even necessary, although i'd say that for the person in question, its probably worth testing, just in case!

If anyone feels the same, perhaps we should get together and put together a challenge to the current twisted rules, which do NOT follow WPATH, DSM-iii, DSM-iV or the putative DSM-V recommendations.

Taking hormones is also supposed to be a reality check. It has such a significant effect that it is pretty obvious very quickly whether it is right for you or nor. For me, it was a powerfully affirming action. I felt a way i had always known i should feel, without ever getting there. I'd been using recreational drugs for many years, as a way with dealing with a world that i didn't fit, and i suddenly had little desire to keep taking them. I felt good, in a way i had never done before. I felt right in a way that had only been hinted at by my ecstasy use. Thank god. The suicidal depression that had plagued me for my entire adult life lifted. i had hope.

For others, i hear, it can quickly show the opposite.

i've got completely sidetracked from where i was when i sat down to write this.

The reason i started was because i've been heavily bullied by trans LGBT members over having experience and viewpoints. The latest round of abuse was because i suggested that having surgery and taking hormones changed your body and psychology and made passing easier. I consider that to be a no-brainer statement. Of course, removing testosterone from your system changes your psychology. It is a hugely powerful drug that is designed to create male stereotyped behavior. Of course it changes your physiology. Its purpose is to create a male phenotype body and to cause male phenotype social interactions through mediation of the pheromone system. Everything about testosterone promotes male-ness.

Yet, i was accused of transphobia (again) elitism (again) and privilege (again). Simply because i've had surgery, live as a woman, paid attention to what was happening along the way and dared to talk about what i see as sensible things.

I took a close look at the people making these statement. I know it is not PC to do so, to check out people's presentation and have opinions about it but really… Their clothes were not appropriate for their body shapes. They often have facial hair. They present as both male and as wearing dresses. They say very provocatively male things...

we took a "real life test". We HAD to fit in, to become a normal part of society, to cope, in order to access surgery. thousands of us succeeded (in the UK alone). We completed the test. We didn't whinge and complain and try and bully people into accepting us. We modified our behavious and tried to fit in, smoothly.

It was not necessarily easy. We are trained in gender correct social interaction and behaviors from birth. Very little of the training is overt. It lies in the micro-gestures of interaction, the subtle pushing and pulling of acceptance and rejection. It is a subtle and pervasive conditioning. 

Many studies agree that male/female behavioral and cognitive differences arise from social conditioning - not from any innate qualities. 

That lays an awful lot of responsibility at the door of society, and a massive job at the feet of the transsexual. If we want to FIT into society, then we need to pay attention to ourselves and root out patterns, habits and ways of being that are due to male-conditioning and replace them with female appropriate ones. It is a huge job. since we grew up as boys, every single female interaction with us was skewed along the lines of a male female pattern and every male interaction along the lines of a male-male pattern. Unless we've been very lucky or observant, we've never been on the receiving end of female-female specific training, or male-female training with us as the female.

It is a huge deficit to overcome. It takes years and years of attention and giving a damn to fix it. I still catch stray male-trained responses. I then need to track down their inception to let them go.

With many of the TG bullies who attack me, they don't give a damn. They demand acceptance as women from the outset. Without hormones, without surgery, without even recognizing that their every smell, every look, every behavior is male phenotype. Then they get angry when i say something as true as "hormones help you pass", as if it is their RIGHT to pass. (and by pass, i don't mean pass the RLT, i mean pass as a woman).

When i say "pass as a woman" i don't mean: be a beautiful head turning stunner. I mean: be like most other women on the planet; Come across as female. Its a simple thing, and there are lots and lots of very masculine looking and behaving natal females around. They are NOT mistaken for men and neither should we be. If someone really cannot pass, it is not only down to looks. It will be down to the movements of the body, the tone of the voice. The patterns of speech and action. The tiny little things that our minds are constantly assessing. Things we actually have control over.

Whilst searching for references and quotes i came across this blog. Very much in the same vein as mine:

This TG attitude is wrong on so many levels. The real life test is not something that you pass or fail. Its a personal test, that asks us "do we want to do this?", "can we cope with this?", "can we deal with the consequences of this?". It asks us "can we live in society, as women?", "can we fit in, be normal?". It asks us "are we sure?". If you come across as a guy in a dress, then it is going to be hard. If you act like a guy in a dress, then it is going to be really hard. I don't know any TS women who are like this, though. There may be odd moments when we seem like a guy. The same is true for all women. There may be moments when we get spotted, and outed, and our past rises up to haunt us. Those are the trials, which we learnt to accept during our RLT.

That is real-life, though. We have to be able to live it. For the people who can't be bothered to try? Why should society accept you?

It will be a very limited world in which you live, TG honeys.

Here's some links onwards:

Someone who hates the RLT. not surprisingly, they don't want surgery:

A very personal account of the whole journey:

Someone else who has taken it, and doesn't see what else can replace it:

An awesome analysis of the psychology of those taking the test:

I like that last one a lot. here's a quote: 
"However, I believe the RLT, or as I (and the WPATH SoC) would prefer it was called, the RLE (experience), is still fundamentally flawed in many clinical practices. It's practice is often set out in such a way it focus's the patient's mind on PASSING the test, whether by; 'passing' , or, more likely, by persuading themselves that they are passing, or by pretending they are passing —- or as the French psychoanalyst Collete Chiland might say for the majority ; by deluding themselves or by an illusion of themselves."
I love that concept, the understanding that we are capable of deluding ourselves.


  1. Another well written blog Flow. total agreement with you.

  2. Estrogen does help passing, any assertion to the otherwise is ridiculous. Yet you overestimate the importance of pheromones and such. As to behaviour, I guess 'true' transsexuals are less sensitive to the brain effects of testosterone anyway. I know people who pass most or all of the time before hormones.

  3. how do you know i overestimate the importance of pheromones? that is a statement without evidence. Indeed, it is in disagreement with a lot of published research on pheromone mediated behavioral responses.

    i tried to find out more about you, to see if there was some reason you could make blanket statements as if they were fact, but your profile is (probably not surprisingly) blank.

    i'm impressed by your ability to comment on so many of my posts so quickly in such a short time. you must be able to read and process things very rapidly.

    i'm not going to make guesses. i'll ask questions and examine data. i'll share experiences etc. but pontificating on unknowns? that's a waste of everyone's time.


please be nice.