Monday, 4 April 2011

Unfolding tragedies

Just before I went into the Nuffield Hospital, Christella Antoni, the well-known London voice therapist, sent me an information sheet put out by Wild Pictures, who were making a TV documentary for ITV1. The heading was Are you a Trans Woman due to undergo surgery in 2011?

It went on to say this: 

Wild Pictures are making an ITV 1 documentary about trans women and their families. We are keen to speak to women who are transitioning MTF and who would consider taking part in this sensitive documentary over the next few months. The documentary will explore the different experiences and feelings that transwomen and those close to them may have around transition. We are keen for the documentary to raise awareness and increase understanding of gender dysphoria, and the challenges faced by transwomen and their families.

It added:

Wild Pictures are adept at exploring sensitive issues with intelligence, empathy and honesty and have built our reputation on making films with people and not about people. Our creative director Paul Hamann is a former head of BBC documentaries and an award winning film maker in his own right.

I would love to hear your thoughts. If you're interested in finding out more, please do email me or call me on the contact details below. All conversations are completely confidential, and getting in touch with me won't commit you in any way to taking part - but may well help us with our research.

Rachel Tierney
Assistant Producer, Wild Pictures

Christella had actually met Rachel Tierney, and thought her 'very ethical', and had passed details on to me in case I was interested in taking part in the programme. Well, out of curiosity I contacted Rachel and an exchange of emails took place. I thought she probably wouldn't be able to use me because (a) my surgery was imminent, so there could be no pre-op footage; (b) I had no close family to react with my situation; (c) my recovery period precluded any physically active role in the film-making; and (d) I was almost certainly way too eccentric to be typical of trans people in general.

I pointed Rachel at my blog, which she then studied. She caught it at the time when I was looking ahead at my post-op future, and the manifold challenges it presented; and it was the very time when I had that spat with another blogger concerning the real position of what you might term an 'apprentice woman'.

I haven't heard anything more from her, and I'm guessing that I simply didn't fit the criteria for inclusion. That would be completely unsurprising, and I honestly don't mind, because at least one other person I know of has been signed up, and is being filmed right now. I refer you to Jane Fae (http://janefae.wordpress.com/). She's doing a very good job of describing the process and how it is affecting her family. I recommend that you take a look.

So where does the tragedy come into it? I think you can easily guess. Is there a trans blog anywhere that at some point doesn't confess to the terrible strains that the transition process inflicts? It's impossible for anyone who is emotionally connected with you, the trans person, to be indifferent to the changes that transition will bring about.

In the early stages, when it seems to be unreal and just talk, and it's simply a matter of wigs and skirts discreetly worn on private occasions, there is nothing very threatening about it. There is an illusion that it can be contained, diverted, or stopped in its tracks with discussion and therapy and sundry delaying tactics both subtle and shocking. Then a stage is reached when a definite decision to start hormone therapy is made. Even then, the effects are slow to gather, and nothing much seems to change for months on end, unless chest expansion is unusually pronounced. But gradually there is more and more feminisation, and it all becomes hard to conceal, and then the future is suddenly on the line - the potential destruction of the family as a united unit. However you try to rationalise it, ahead lies only pain and agonising choice. And of course it can't be rationalised. It is feeling-driven, and for the trans person a dire period of intense pressure and guilt now has to be endured. On one hand, there is a medically-sanctioned development into the real person and some sort of ultimate happiness, with maybe at the end of it a life-enhancing unlocking of fresh personal potential. On the other, a compliant and disastrous suppression of the unsuppressible, for the genie is out of the bottle and won't go back; and if the situation is thrust away and ignored, there will only be tension and corrosion, and a slow descent into madness.

Nobody can win. But, phoenix-like, something may rise from the ashes. It all depends on the people concerned. I do know of couples who have weathered this storm, and found a way. Or have parted for a time and then come back together, with scars to record the past trauma, but an acceptance of what really is, and a willingness to make the best of a new world with new dynamics and new reasons for living.

6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Sometime I read posts that really hit home. This is one of those - troubling I suppose

    I hope I can find a way through all this emotion. Not easy.

    Becca

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  3. I've been enjoying reading your posts of late for a taste of what Jane will go through (hopefully) in the early summer.

    Interested also in this piece as you summarise a transitional journey that I barely recognise and that echoes something we were told recently at the Nuffield - that when surgery becomes a definite it can become a flash point for the relationship.

    For me, with just over a year since Jane told me she thought she needed gender affirmation,(or words to that effect) the surgery (although a big serious physical undertaking obviously)has become a fairly small step psychologically. Something that in many ways I'm quite excited about.

    Maybe as you are localish to Brighton we might meet at her bedside.

    xx

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  4. @Andea:
    Thank you for commenting.

    My own transition was made in the face of passionate opposition from my partner, who felt she was losing all that was dear to her, and hated the new me as you might fear and revile a devouring and cruel monster. She is presently in a kind of bereavement without closure.

    I hope that one day she can see things differently. If she does, scars can heal and something new might be created. I remain ever hopeful.

    Lucy

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  5. @Andrea:
    And yes, I'd be delighted to look in at the Nuffield if the intrusion will be welcomed.

    Dad always said that if ever I needed a 'job' I'd make a very good Hospital Visitor! Not quite sure he was right, but I do live close by and I chat quite easily. I am in fact visiting my (local) friend Alice this week at the Nuffield, and another (Northern) friend Mel next week.

    Lucy

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  6. "....and then the future is suddenly on the line - the potential destruction of the family as a united unit. However you try to rationalise it, ahead lies only pain and agonising choice. And of course it can't be rationalised. It is feeling-driven, and for the trans person a dire period of intense pressure and guilt now has to be endured. On one hand, there is a medically-sanctioned development into the real person and some sort of ultimate happiness, with maybe at the end of it a life-enhancing unlocking of fresh personal potential. On the other, a compliant and disastrous suppression of the unsuppressible, for the genie is out of the bottle and won't go back; and if the situation is thrust away and ignored, there will only be tension and corrosion, and a slow descent into madness." ~Lucy

    BRILLIANT !

    ReplyDelete

This blog is public, and I expect comments from many sources and points of view. They will be welcome if sincere, well-expressed and add something worthwhile to the post. If not, they face removal.

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Lucy Melford