Friday, 10 June 2011

Having to explain why

Haven't we all been bombarded with questions, over and over again?

Questions like:

# Why have you made this choice to transition? (It's not a choice: I'm driven)
# Why can't you wait a bit longer, and see whether you'll feel different? (I've waited all my life, and time's now running out)
# Have you considered that other things could be making you take this course, like a search for novelty, or wanting to escape a dull life, or wanting to make a big gesture? (I know how I feel, and I'm quite sure that my feelings are genuine and true)
# Why don't you think hard about the awful effect on other people? (I have thought about them, and it's killing me with guilt; but I'll go mad if I don't do something about this)
# Where's the evidence for what you say about yourself? For instance, why didn't you cross-dress more in the past? (I was too embarrassed to acquire the clothes, and besides, I was afraid of discovery and ridicule)
# Don't you realise that you'll never look like a woman, and will never be accepted? (I can't help that; whatever the outcome, I can't help doing this)

And so it goes on. Sometimes relentlessly. It's understandable that those close to you want to know what's going on, and the why of it. But it's so hard to provide a coherent explanation when you can't find the right words, or don't even fully understand it yourself. How do you put across what you feel so deeply about yourself? How do you avoid being on the defensive, backed into a corner?

For me, those days of interrogation are largely over. The sceptics have vanished from my life - or they can see from events that I had total conviction, whatever the precise trigger that set things in motion during 2008. I still get asked questions, but now they come from people empathetic to me, who simply want to relate my story to theirs. And we often discover points of great similarity.

I'm not really a word person. I prefer pictures of the before-and-after sort. They can explain how I feel at a moment in time, and reveal a difference. There are plenty of smiling portraits of myself from every era of my life - who keeps unsmiling pictures? - and they give a false impression. Like going on holiday, and taking no photos on cold rainy days, only on the warm sunny days, so that the holiday looks fabulous when it wasn't. But occasionally there is the odd shot that shows a sterner face. Compare these shots of me in 2005 shortly before retiring, and in 2007, with the bottom one, taken only yesterday:

It hardly needs comment. I know the bottom shot is frivolous, and I'm pulling a face for the camera, but it shouts vitality, and a zest for living. That's what transition has achieved. Surely it answers every possible question as to why I did it.


  1. Looking into the eyes of your old self there is a deep sadness and resignation while in the new picture you sparkle and are alive.

    Your old self has a softness that hints at the woman inside. There are few enough of me in the decades from my late teens on and since they show me hiding behind a beard. I could not bear the horror of shaving when the hairs came in my early twenties and did not want a constant reminder of a clean face reminding me of what should be, I shall never be showing any before pictures except the one pre beard when I still hoped for help to change all those decades ago.

    Hope the recovery comes on apace, we need the stories of your jaunts.

  2. Regarding what Caroline said about your eyes in the old photos, I can see it too. You look so much happier now. :)

  3. Yes, the eyes have it! You look so much happier now.

    Melissa XX

  4. As someone at the beginning of the 'awkward questions' stage I find it difficult to give convincing answers.

    # Why have you made this choice to transition? (It's not a choice: I'm driven)... sounds a good answer, but is quickly countered with "You've survived perfectly well for the first ¾ of your life so why screw it up now?"

    Perhaps the best answer is in the difference between those old and new photos. All the tension has drained away and you've emerged from your chrysalis as the person you were always meant to be.

    I'm so happy for you, and more than a little envious.


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