Sunday, 13 March 2011

Sore sutures but lofty ambitions

Now that R--- has gone home, and I'm managing on my own, I can take stock and explore how it feels to be post-op, and at least physically womanised.

My attitude here is based on the conviction (with of course the benefit of hindsight) that I always was female. I just looked at first like a little boy, and was duly labelled, and my upbringing was consequently the sort given to boys. Knowing no better, I accepted all this. Any feeling that something was amiss, or that I was a misfit and ought to be something else, could be put down to the kind of strange imaginings and weird notions that kids tend to get. It was all, anyway, 'just a phase - something I'd grow out of'. I can hear my Mum saying that even now. So the appalling stresses of puberty were lightly dismissed by those who had power in my life. And indeed, I came through with a career ahead of me, all ready to take up. I pursued that career for over three decades, hardly ever pausing to examine myself or my life closely. I could cope, I seemed to be doing well. I got married, and even though that failed, its demise - never thoroughly examined - could easily be put down to 'natural causes'. The concept of Gender Dysphoria never occurred to me. But when it did, when it hit me in July 2008, I knew instantly that THIS is what had been nagging away at me all my life.

The rest, including the op, were inevitable from that moment. A series of choiceless events. All I could do was plan the best way to make it happen, and see what needed to be done to recover the woman inside who had never had anything more than unconscious expression.

In my world-view, making my genitalia conform to self-perception is just a prelude, an overture, to the main part of the symphony. The real reconstruction work is a gigantic endeavour that will consume the rest of my life. All the things that male children learn must be unlearned. All the thinking, attitudes, assumptions, reactions and prejudices that male children and young men pick up must be looked at, and discarded if inconsistent with the feminine way. Similarly with anything I was learning in later life that would have turned me into a grouchy old scrote.

Then I must study what it means to be a woman, what her style is, how she moves, how she inter-relates. And what her impulses are, and what makes her laugh with shining eyes, and what makes her cry, and in what circumstances does she accept a strong arm around her shoulders. I must become expert at projecting my feminine self, naturally, unconsciously and with the utmost individuality.

A pretty comprehensive cluster of difficult ambitions! But for me only total commitment to my task will do. Everything else - a possible professional career, a life of travel - comes second.

And lying here, with tight, painful suture lines and swollen parts, how does that square with my lofty notion of womanhood? Well, I'm not discouraged. By the end of March, the swellings should be much reduced and I may even be able to sit comfortably, allowing me to drive. Then watch me go.

8 comments:

  1. And go you will, Lucy! I just know you will! I don't have words to express how happy I am for you now! Just know that I have full confidence that you will accomplish all of your goals, and with flying colors!

    Melissa XX

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  2. I was a bit taken aback by this post. We become women by growing up among women and learning from them. I've been doing that all my life. I should have thought you had been too, at least since you went full time. Maybe that's what you're saying and it just didn't come across that way to me.

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  3. @Ariel:
    I saw what was said on Teagan's blog.

    I didn't really grow up among women - no sister, not especially close to my mother, and a single-sex school. I'm now avidly observing (and even being coached by) ordinary women, but getting up to speed on being a completely natural 'woman' will take me time.

    Incidentally, at no point have I regarded any of this as acting. It's way beyond that. It has to be totally instinctive.

    I perceive that airing such problems disturbs some girls. Are they insecure, or just a little bit unrealistic? How can one wake up in hospital after the op and regard oneself as fully transformed, with nothing extra to do?

    In any case, I'm not going to join any 'Post-Op Club' nor conform to anyone else's rules of behaviour or expression. That kind of thing epitomised the Old World. Things have changed forever!

    Lucy

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  4. Lucy... the whole point of my blog was that we absolutely should *not* conform to anyone else's rules of behaviour or expression!

    For example, there's no rule that tells one how to emit a proper girly scream if someone pushes you into a cold swimming pool. There's no rule that tells us how we should react when a guy puts his arm around us. All that matters is how *you* react.

    On one hand, you say that you don't plan to conform to others' rules; on the other hand, you say that you plan to study them, and are being coached. What are they coaching you on, if not how to conform to rules? There's a disconnect there.

    At any rate, I hope that you get to the place you're striving for and that your recovery goes well. Just be yourself.

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  5. @Teagan:
    I think we do agree, but language gets in the way!

    Just to be clear:

    # I learned how to speak in a convincingly feminine way from the best person in London - it took one year and £2,000 - but my collection of girly squeals and exclamations and giggles is my own untutored work. I'm still not so happy about the sounds I make when coughing and sneezing. More effort required there!

    # my natal women friends merely offer the occasional tip. Mostly I pick up a wide range of study material from all around me, every time I go out. I'm highly observant and very selective. I concentrate on being natural. My natal women friends and relatives commend me on how at ease they are in my company, so I must be getting it right.

    Men have it so easy. They can slouch along in shapeless jeans and a boring white T shirt. We often want to do better than that, which means knowing what to wear and how best to present it. Which jewellery, which shoes, which bag, and so on. I'm all self-taught, but that's another kind of knowledge you need to acquire, and then keep up to date. (I hope I'm making my point...!)

    Lucy

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  6. OK, I did have the advantage of a mother I was fairly close to and two sisters, as well as many female friends throughout my life. I was also fortunate never to really have to develop a façade. People sometimes thought I was gay, and most I avoided being beat up for it.

    I call it learning, and I imagine you do too, by whatever name. Girls learn to be women by being surrounded by girls and women. So do we, although we have a lot of catching up to do, and the growing up with other girls part won't happen.

    SRS for me finally put my body in line with my brain. It also had the effect of making me even more confident in myself as female, and I was doing pretty well before. I agree that it doesn't bring about any instant change in who we are and how we behave. I hope no one thinks so!

    I also agree that it's possible to do something so jarringly male, so much a faux pas, that people might wonder about us. But it's been a long time since I worried about that. Like you, I get positive feedback from others who don't know my history, and I'm very relaxed when in the company of others. So I must be doing something right. Seems you are as well.

    It might be that I've just never expressed it in quite so analytical a fashion!

    I don't think I'll ever emit a truly girly scream. Even my falsetto doesn't go that high. I've done my share of "wooo"ing at concerts and such and it goes as high as it goes. It's about like that of some women I've heard.

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  7. @Ariel:
    You've just said exactly what I would have. We're not so different! Nor am I so very different from Teagan and people who identify with her. We are all having to face up to a Really Big Event.

    I see a lot of people follow Jerica Truax of 'Jericanation', whose surgery is imminent. I've followed her for over a year, and find many things in her experience that speak to me. But many differences too. I think she and Teagan must be around the same age, and must therefore have clear notions on how women behave. Neither has to strip away a long lifetime of male conditioning, male hangups, and male misconceptions before the woman can come out. It's a real handicap, all that toploading, and I am looking for sensible shortcuts. I need to be rehabilitated, and as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Education and observation properly applied seem good ways. And practice, practice, practice. Fortunately I have the inclination and means to get out of the house and mix with people in all kinds, and hone my social skills.

    Possibly a Churchillian 'Blood, Sweat and Tears' message jars on some, and upsets others who believe that if one is ready for surgery then one is almost complete, and no great ongoing effort is necessary. But I want to be honest: in most cases, certainly where older transsexuals are concerned, and certainly in my own case, there is a lot of man still left, and extra work is needed to get rid of him. Personal work. Hard work. And it may take a long time. Quite apart from learning all the many skills of being a woman. I have had to be shown such things as how to fix a panty towel to my knickers, and the best position for peeing. There's so much to get your head around - it's not just knowing how to put on makeup. They're all learnable skills, but they need time to absorb, and can't be added to the repertoire just by 'being myself'.

    Of all female skills, vocal ones are the most important on a day-to-day, practical level. I am SO thankful for learning how to speak with a convincing female voice. It has done much more than any other single thing to make me seem feminine beyond question. It's opened all kinds of doors, it's won me attention and respect, and it's got things done. It's banished all fear.

    So I feel perplexed when some other trans women I know say that voice doesn't matter, that mere appearance - dress and makeup - will be enough, and that people should be accepting if the voice isn't quite right. What? This is ignoring human nature! The voice is the main means of communication. Of course it must sound right - and be used subtly as well. I wouldn't interfere in others' lives, but I silently wish they'd do themselves a favour and pay attention to their voice and what may be achieved with it.

    There, rant over!

    Lucy

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  8. I think we could all write post after post on the importance of getting your voice right. Kate Bornstein can make fun of the process all ze wants to, but then ze no longer says ze is a woman. Anyone who says it's not important is kidding themselves, to their own detriment. And yes, getting your voice right is hard work, because there you're working against vocal cords that were thickened by testosterone and aren't going to change (without surgical intervention, which itself is far from perfect). I quite agree that voice is one of the most important changes we make.

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