Monday, 9 November 2009

The Transsexual Manifesto

I've been feeling upset recently - quite unlike the ordinary day-to-day me. Perhaps it's the hormones starting to bite deeper, or some kind of fallout from nailing my transition flag to the mast with the name change by Deed Poll. Who knows.

One way I like coping with things that bother me, however vaguely discerned, is to set out some thoughts and let it expand into an essay. I've used this technique before, for example when I retired early and went through a terrible guilt phase. I wrote a very long essay about it, and I then wrote another long essay about my former career, the two things obviously being linked. The very act of putting things into writing seemed to bring perspective and better understanding and a sense that although I was right to examine my concerns, nevertheless I was wrong to chastise myself and dwell morbidly upon matters that were not personal but in fact owned by the society around me; and that I hadn't been, and wasn't now, an undeserving failure. Those essays helped me move forward. They also set me off thinking about my life in general, with consequences that have lead to transition and a lot of grief.

Lately I've felt a need to set out my thinking on being transsexual. I'll share it with you. There's nothing original here, and I consider the title a bit grand for a draft set of thoughts, but the words are mine:


For any person, anyone at all, their true gender is the one that their mind recognises and is most comfortable with. And that doesn’t necessarily mean just classically ‘male’ or ‘female’. The comfort zone could be anywhere on the gender spectrum.

Someone in between the two classic positions might easily feel confused about what kind of person they are. But those whose self-perception comes close to the typical ‘male’ or ‘female’ positions have no confusion at all: they know exactly which gender group they belong to.

One’s ‘official’ gender is assigned at birth according to outward appearance. From then onwards, the growing person is treated as either ‘male or ‘female’ and becomes used to their assigned role. Social conformity locks them in. For many this does not matter. But for some, the pressure to be conventionally ‘male’ or ‘female’ starts to generate inner discomfort, because their own feelings about what they are and how they would like to behave differ so strongly from the norms for their assigned role. If the discomfort is irrepressible, then the person will protest early in life and hope for remedial treatment while young. If it can be lived with, then the inner conflict will continue into adult life.

Often an adult person manages the mismatch between the gender they see within and their different outward appearance by doing things to alleviate the strain - cross-dressing, for instance. But some simply put the problem away in a shut box and continue with their life until the issue can no longer be ignored.

A ‘transition’ in later life is hard for everyone concerned. There is so much to lose and destroy. That is one of the reasons why an early diagnosis of gender dysphoria is best. Inner conflict must be faced sooner or later, and sooner is less damaging and also gives the person who suffers a longer time living as they would prefer. Those who grew up in a time when such a diagnosis could not be made, and have grown old without remedial treatment, have been seriously disadvantaged.

From the foregoing it should be clear that a transsexual person does not seek a ‘sex change’. Their sex (meaning gender) is fixed; it is what their mind perceives; they merely want the body altered to conform, and are prepared to adapt their voice and behaviour to match, insofar as that is possible.

Transsexuality is a mismatch between the inner and outer self, a cruel condition that ought to justify without further argument whatever remedial treatment society can afford in the effort to put matters right. It is not mere wrong-thinking, or a flouting of the natural order, nor a mental illness, but a physical disability that should merit as much concern and action as any other kind of physical disability. Nobody would dream of withholding surgery and appropriate aftercare from a person with curable blindness, or a birth defect such as a deformity, a missing limb or a disfigurement. Any person in this position has a reduced quality of life, and cannot contribute fully in society, perhaps, who knows, to society’s loss. Any person in this position deserves as much dignity and respect and ordinary kindness as anyone else.

Of course there is no unlimited supply of resources to put matters right. Of course those who can easily afford to pay should consider doing so, to free up resources for those who cannot. But proper treatment should be available to all without irrelevant obstacles in the way.

In a social context, there is no rational reason for scorn or horror or violence to be directed towards the transsexual person. That such negative feelings can be expressed is a sad comment on our culture, and reflects the true state of our so-called advanced civilisation.

Nothing of course stands still; attitudes will undoubtedly change with time; but, as with any long march towards a social goal, a valiant few have to stand up and be counted, and fight the good fight so that the many others who follow may live free and fulfilling lives.

Lucy Melford
9 November 2009

Oh dear. It sounds dreadfully political, and I'm no activist, closet or overt. I'm most definitely not looking to stir up any controversy either, so please don't take it as a challenge, or the opening of some debate. It's just my first version of another essay. I suppose the target readers are the non-trans people from my former life who might dip into my blog now and then. There are apparently several of them, and since we haven't had any contact this is one way in which I can get my viewpoint across. Note that I haven't used the words 'man' or 'woman' at any point.

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