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!)