Monday, 14 March 2011

Yesterday's post causes upset - my response

Yesterday's post didn't get a good reception over on another blog, and a negative debate ensued. Why did it strike the wrong note?

Perhaps people always want the genital surgery to represent closure. The finishing touch. The goal attained. The Holy Grail secured and drunk from. The flag set on the summit. The seal on one's hard-won womanhood. Nobody wants to be reminded that this admittedly very important step is still only one stage in the long journey. That it has to be consolidated and maintained and improved upon. In my own case, with no prospect of sitting back and letting the thing ride. And I'm not being melodramatic. I don't think I'll ever want to stop perfecting the person known as Lucy Melford. Or lose the need to.

And - this is more tentative - perhaps suggestions from me that I consider myself only a 'provisional woman' are worrying and disturbing to some others. God knows why. It could be that if a person like me doesn't now feel pink and fluffy and unreservedly fulfilled, then they themselves might not be when their surgery comes. And that brings them down. So they go into a defence mode. Or if they are already post-op, then my words may be seen as a feared infection, a spoiler to a comfortable existence. Only they really know which is the case. Speaking for myself, I'm not interested in illusions, just the facts. And while some natal women use illusions to fend off pain, I believe most know what's what, and have seen enough of life to demand the truth. So by facing up to a hard road, and not being complacent, I think I'm being genuinely feminine.

And now the three main criticisms made by the more outspoken members of that debating society:

# It was supposed that a person who saw some serious post-op work ahead must be unready for surgery. Well, I couldn't have got access to surgery without satisfying medical opinion. Apart from that hurdle, it would have been imprudent to expect that, once post-op, there was nothing left to do. The surgery doesn't by itself turn anyone into a woman. It confers unanswerable physical integrity - drop your knickers and your physical femaleness is revealed beyond dispute. But it isn't a brain operation. If you are fortunate, and especially if you are young, you can now take your life forward without much extra fuss. But some of us have lived for decades as men, and the effects have to be overcome. In other words, oldies like me may look and sound and behave like women, but there's a lot of deep unlearning to do, and a boatload of new stuff to absorb. It can be done; I'm confident of success; but it'll take time - years perhaps. Meanwhile, yes, I want to present myself as a woman, just as I have done for a long time past. But I'm not kidding myself that my presentation is perfect, nor will be for ages. To me, that's an honest and realistic self-appraisal.

# The notion of an intelligent and analytical enquiry into women's ways was pooh-poohed as nonsense. Well, none of the natal women I know (whether my allies or not) would have the slightest difficulty describing what a woman would hear, feel, react, do, or say in a given set of circumstances. And all could show me how a woman sits, stands, uses her hands, holds a glance, pats her hair, and makes any of a thousand facial or body gestures or movements, mostly slight, while having conversation or whatever. Trans women who are dismissive of the rich and willing resources out there are missing a trick. Of course there is a 'woman's way'! Make it your way too.

# I was put down for acting, and not being myself. Bloody cheek! This is all far beyond acting. It is life lived for real, spontaneously, happily, irritably, an unscripted improvisation sustained indefinitely, based on knowledge, experience and the will to succeed, underpinned by a personal code of ethics, kindness and fairness to others, good manners, balance and amiability. I wish I had some other qualities such as courage, a great sense of humour, and a soft loving nature, but never mind.

Of course I think before I open my mouth. But then shouldn't we all?

I'm annoyed at being considered a mere actor. Please don't anyone throw that one at me again. Or it'll be pistols at dawn. (Oh, don't worry - the code of duelling only obliged MEN to fight. Women didn't have to. So at least one half of humanity was sensible. Hurrah!)


  1. It was a good post, Lucy. And an honest one.

    What too many don't understand is that women learn and are coached to be women too. They just do it while they're growing-up as girls.

    I had a big hand in raising my young neice and nephew. The boy always did what he wanted to.

    The girl, on the other hand, was like that at first, but after a certain age, many of her behaviors became not what she wanted to do, but what she saw OTHER girls and women doing.

    In our society there is what women are trained to do, and what comes naturally. Too many people, especially men, who never grew-up as women just don't know the difference because it is outside their experience.

    Bravo for demolishing another transsexual myth!

  2. I can speak only for myself, of course. For me, what you wrote really didn't have anything to do with SRS, and I wasn't thinking of it in terms of before or after SRS. In a lot of ways, SRS was very much a beginning for me, because I felt so differently about myself. Some seem to consider themselves complete women before or without surgery. That was not true for me. So the idea of learning, both before and after, makes perfect sense to me.

    I don't think anyone considered your analysis to be nonsense. Extreme, perhaps, but not nonsense. One thing I try to keep in mind is that there is no such thing as "what a woman would hear, feel, react, do, or say in a given set of circumstances." Women have shared characteristics, of course, but they are individuals. There is no perfect woman. There is no typical woman. There are as many different kinds of women as there are women. As someone whose behaviour was well outside what people considered masculine, I understand well that there are many ways to be male. So also there are many ways to be female. I know women who are unequivocally women but are not in the least stereotypically feminine.

    I think a lot of what we go through is more subtraction than addition. I didn't try to move with more fluidity. I let go of moving with such angularity. I didn't try to walk with smaller steps. I just stopped trying to have such a long stride. This was all a refreshingly relaxing process! I think I was much more wound up, both physically and mentally, when I was being (somewhat) more masculine.

    Some things weren't that big a change. I don't sit with my legs spread wide open, but then I hardly ever did. I cross my legs as women tend to, although I know women who cross their legs as men tend to. I don't take up much space, although again, I think taking up space is more an alpha male thing than anything I engaged in. In a lot of ways I am more refined than I used to be, but I think that was just waiting to come out. It's more acceptable for me now than it used to be.

    No, there is no "woman's way." There are "women's ways." We find what works for us within that range. It's a pretty wide range.

    I don't think anyone (at least anyone who knows you at all) thought you were acting. It was more that you seemed to be describing a process of learning a performance. I think we know now that this is not what you were actually expressing.

    Since we are individuals, we go about this learning process each in our own way. Perhaps analysis works best for you. No question I've done a certain amount of analysis myself. Even though I've been observing women all my life, that process certainly sharpened up when I began transition. But I've come to think of the process more wholistically. Changing voice is indeed an analytical process, and has to be. But I've found that when it comes to general demeanor and behaviour, it's more a process of letting something happen than of making it happen, and of absorbing what is around me rather than taking it on.

    Surely you must appreciate the irony of using a stereotypically masculine process in order to become a more complete female. :)

  3. Your doing fine.

    Jamie speaks a lot of truth; Women are expected to be a certain way. Hopefully future generations of woman will break some of the chains.

    'To thine own self be true'

  4. We have all have our own paths to travel in this life and you are a woman it seens to me that can see her way and move forward.
    I got told recently, be yorself and don't get hung up on other peoples opinions. Just live your life and be happy.

  5. I hadn't previously seen the comments on yesterdays post and I have to admit surprise at them. We like to think that the preparation for surgery is an apprenticeship and once that time is served, we are full members of the guild of women - no, not the WI or the Mothers' Union! Of course with luck, if we didn't already possess it, we will have acquired an ability to go about our business as women without appearing out of place but that is a long way from being totally assimilated into female society. We will never menstruate or give birth to a child, or even just suspect we might be pregnant. For many purposes these things don't matter, though we might wish we had those experiences in our repertoire. We can only make assumptions about all the things our backgrounds do not contain and this necessarily means we cannot consider ourselves to be the same as natal women. We are neither more nor less than them - just different. Minimise the effect of these differences is an education project and has to take time as there is more to it than knowing how to remain dignified whilst enter a car in a short skirt!

  6. Once again we got the, "WTF? That certainly isn't the way it is for me, so you must not be the real deal" line. It's really getting pretty tiresome.

    As Anji said, you are doing just fine, Lucy. It's your life, and you have the right to perceive it, and live it as you see fit.

    Melissa XX

  7. I thought about trying to reconstitute the comment that Blogger ate yesterday, about analysis vs. a wholistic approach, but I figure maybe Goddess was telling me just to leave it and move on.


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