Saturday, 7 May 2011

An entirely new journey

It is commonly thought that having gone through two to three years of a process that cumulates in genital surgery, then that is the end of transition. Also that it will be 'farewell and goodbye' to those who have not got so far. And a lot of trans women do indeed vanish into anonymous private life once their surgery is past, perhaps never to be heard of again.

There is certainly no onus on anybody to stick around and share their post-op experiences. You can easily imagine circumstances in which keeping up an internet presence could jeopardise a career, or the chance of a new relationship. Or life may have become too busy for posting. Or perhaps there is a feeling that there is nothing worthwhile left to say.

All this is rather a pity, because the post-op period is probably the first time that the reality of living in the proper gender really hits home. Just consider some the changes from the pre-op state:

# The body has been radically and permanently altered by surgery. There is absolutely no going back. The boats have been burned.

# The hormonal regime has changed: even if the oestragen dose is the same as ever, it now does its work in a testosterone-free environment - with unpredictable results.

# There are new daily things to cope with - extra washing, dilation, panty liners.

There are likely to be hormonal and social pressures to conform to the 'typical woman' stereotype. You look like a woman, sound like a woman, walk like one, smell like one, dress like one. People everywhere will treat you like one, which means you will gain both the close confidence of other women and the leery attention of men. It will look strange if you do not respond to that confidence and that attention in a 'normal' way. So the easiest path to take (like it or not) will involve a plunge into the world of women - which will school you into thinking like a woman - and submission to the dating game as run by men, which involves contending in a kind of unfair beauty contest. Of course you can buck all this by insisting on having the lesbian relationship you really want, or by attaching no importance at all to conventional glamour or allure. But it will cause raised eyebrows and puzzled looks, and implant the unwanted and dangerous thought that you are not a normal woman.

I suspect that many post-op trans women have a long and difficult time deciding what kind of woman they are, and to what extent they want to be individualistic and untypical. In effect this is an entirely new journey of discovery, as dramatic and fascinating as the intial pre-op struggle to recognise and remedy their gender dysphoria. This post-op story needs to be told, and I for one intend to tell it.

This means of course that there must be continuity between the pre- and post-op selves. No disguising who I was, otherwise it will be impossible to examine the evolution of thinking and behaviour. For instance, when I first 'came out' in July 2008 I felt that transition literally involved converting myself from being a man to being a woman. Nowadays I would say that I was born a woman, but raised as a man because of my male appearance, and that nothing fundamental has changed: the hormones and surgery have merely brought my outward appearance into line with my inner feelings about myself. Another example. Back in July 2008 I thought that in the future I would be attracted only to women; but lately I've become more receptive to the notion of men as well. I continue to believe that I will want to avoid any relationship at all, but even that could change, and the unfolding account of how I shift position - if it happens - must be worth writing about.

So you now know the future direction of this blog. It will be how Lucy Melford discovers her true self and her true destiny. I'd just like to hope that I will not be the only post-op trans woman sharing her experiences.


  1. Yes and no. Sorry, at the moment reflecting the more intimate of personal circumstance, particularly from within a marriage, is going to be private. Whatever the greater good is of sharing and dissecting in public some things are not for sharing,

    But I will, in my own way, a path that even in the last few weeks has seen significant change, be walking alongside you in discovery.

  2. Much of what you say has a resonance for me. In particular, much of what makes me the totally female person that I now am has roots in things done by the male character within which I hid for many years. My view might change in the future, but at present it seems unlikely I will ever aim to expunge my former identity. It also seems unlikely that I will ever go quiet and shut up!

  3. I find your observation that when you first came out you took the road of converting yourself, but later understood that you were born female, of deep interest to me. I am working towards surgery. Could you say more about the differences between a testosterone suppressed and a testosterone free situation and how you experience it.

  4. @Kathryn:
    Well, it's still early days post-op, but I feel great, and intensely 'complete'. You can feel female without surgery, but there's no question that having a body that looks female in every way helps immensely to consolidate your identity. And obviously the fact that you can 'prove' your female status beyond any reasonable doubt boosts your self-confidence.

    I still think that huge attention must be paid to the general impression you give to people. So how you behave, speak, dresss, arrange your hair, and so on, remain crucial things. The golden rule is to do what all the other natal women do. It may seem like conforming to an average, but you can't make any mistakes that can give you away. Having authentic-looking genital bits is no good on its own: you need to be outwardly female as well, and blend in.

    I'm not qualified to say what a 'testosterone suppressed' situation would be like. I never took anti-androgens. I understand that they can give you a rough ride. I relied on a mild dose of oestragen to see me through, and had emotional stability and no unwanted side-effects, even when I came off the oestragen pre-op. To be honest, I think my temperament - and the big fact that i had already retired - had most to do with coping with the stresses and upheavals of transition so far.


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  7. Blogger replicated my original comment addressed to Kathryn, hence the deletions.


  8. Thank you for your response. I have relatively low doses of estrogen and anti-androgens, hence the question. I have had no ride other than a smooth one with much stability, in fact more than I have had over the last 45 years.

    I am well aware of the impression part of your response. In fact it is the one survival line for those who transition at my age. I do have to say that blending in at 6'4" is sometimes difficult not matter what gender or sex you are.

    But then there are many, many women my height, and they all get stared at *s*


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Lucy Melford