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.
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.
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.