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.