Thursday, 9 June 2011

Late transitioners

As happens fairly often, a comment made on someone else's post forms the nucleus of a related post of one's own.

Calie of Calie's Chronicles (http://calietg.blogspot.com/) had written a post (Uncorking the Demons) about how deeply upset she'd been by a film called Normal, watched at home on her own while her wife was away. I've not seen it, but I have to say it sounded unbearable to watch, and I don't think I could have stood it. Part of Calie's post lamented the position of those who have to transition later in life, rather than in their teens, and therefore have to cope with such things as a hopelessly compromised body, and close family ties that mean too much to needlessly harm them. This was my comment:

You have a big, big reason for sitting on your gender dysphoria, Calie, and managing it as best you can; but I do worry that one day it will get unbearable for you. Your reactions to the film show how much pressure is inside. 

I too wish that I had transitioned donkeys years ago, except for three things. 

First, the hormones have worked wonders on my ugly face, and I've learned many of the supporting tricks and techniques that let people see you as female even if the face isn't pretty: so I can get by very well. I think so can anyone else who believes that they could never ever pass. 

Second, the surgery has evolved and is definitely better now that it used to be: that's an important consolation. 

Third: being older means that many of the social pressures that would complicate and subdue a young transitioner's life no longer obtain. For instance, I don't have to be attractive and play the dating game. I don't have to be sad about not being able to have a baby. I don't have to prostrate myself to get on in a career. There are no older family members to control me. I can bring maturity and garnered wisdom and realistic expectations and mental stamina to bear on any difficulty. I can be assertive and get my way, knowledgably insisting on my rights, browbeating people if I have to, certainly facing them down if it's their opinion or mine that must prevail. In short, when young I was unsure of myself and afraid. But not now, especially not after finding my true self through transition. 

I am not advocating transition, only saying that it may become inevitable, and that if it does, then an older transitioner may enjoy some practical advantages over someone younger. 

Mind you, there is one big snag: not much lifetime left. Nobody can fix that. 

Let me hasten to say that I've not actually 'browbeaten' anybody yet! But I would certainly do so if something vital depended on having my wishes met. Such as insisting on seeing a particular doctor. Or the manager at a supermarket or restaurant if something bad had happened, and I wanted to speak to the person who really could sort it all out. (Wow, what a change: the old me was so submissive and feeble)

As you can see, late transitioners - if you share my point of view - do have something going for them. Even at 60 or so, it's so worth doing. But I'll be the first to agree that it's best to transition young, as soon as possible in fact, and enjoy a long lifetime of femaledom without remedial surgery, and with lots of time for every female experience available.

There must be quite a lot of late transitioners out there. I wonder how each has fared. The risk of being left jobless way before retirement must be very high. Ditto the risk of losing family and friends, and of encountering prejudice and various petty humiliations. Such was my own nightmare as soon as I realised that I had to transition. It was a fearful vision of social ostracism, impoverishment and physical danger.

I was lucky. I came through it unscathed, if that's the right word when you lose both parents, your partner, a host of other people, and all your life's savings. But at least I wasn't emotionally scarred. In a strange way (and it feels like a cliche to say so) I feel stronger, better balanced, much more able to face challenges. It's no longer 'I can't'. It's 'Yes, I could do this - any reason why I shouldn't?' I've not become reckless, but I've moved from Planet Do Nothing to Planet Get On With It. That would be regarded as completely 'out of character' by anyone who thought they knew the old me inside out.

Calie's situation is obviously far from unique, and must strike a chord with a large number of people, possibly most. But some MTFs do carry their families with them. For example, Jane Fae of Jane Fae's Blog (http://janefae.wordpress.com/). I'm not competent to say why some have easier rides than others. But there must be some lessons to be learned. That's why we should all pool our experiences.

5 comments:

  1. Like Calie I thought I could survive the misery, in fact assumed that having no will to live would guarantee me a shot life and I would be rid of the suffering but life is not like that!

    I did not think that those suppressed feelings would one day rise like a boil ready to burst and it became transition or die, no alternative.

    After a life of testosterone poisoning and the hair starting to thin and recede I thought I would end up looking a fright but older age has it's compensations as the genders start to gain similarities in appearance though I am still huge in a city of below average sized people!

    I thought my working life was over and that would make things easier but I still do occasional jobs and have never had a moments bother with anyone of my clients, old or new.

    Not much time left but it works. I am so glad that I at least proved to myself that I was correct about how I felt and can enjoy some life at last.

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  2. I agree with most of what you said. I recently wrote a piece on issues of transition success and was crucified for it, which raised similar issues to your post. There is much to be said for transitioning whenever you reach the point in your life where you can say yes to yourself. And for the late ones, there are balancing aspects that come from a life lived.

    Thanks for this

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  3. I decided that I would never transition while I was married - I just couldn't do that to someone I loved. I also decided that I wouldn't transition while my children were at school - they don't deserve that baggage.

    My wife left me because I was such a miserable person to live with.

    After my kids grew up, I decided I couldn't transition because I had a big mortgage and without a job, I would lose my home. I had assumed the worst case scenario that if I transitioned I would lose my job, be unemployable, lose the love and respect of my family and friends and become a freak.

    I became suicidal.

    I got help.

    My GP immediately referred me to an endocrinologist who immediated prescribed hormones and anti-androgens for me. I didn't know where all this was leading - all my imagined disasters were still possibilites but at least I was doing something and that made me feel better.

    Then I lost my job! I was an IT professional for a governemnt agency and the government decided to outsourse all it's IT work. My position became redundant. That was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was eligible for a large redundancy package and a modest pension (indexed to CPI) for the rest of my life. I was suddenly debt free with no mortgage and no need to ever work again!

    I told my loved ones about me and they were all very accepting.

    And the rest is just a beautiful story.

    I transitioned at 47, had surgery at 50, have had many interesting part time jobs, worked for senators, ran for parliament and best of all, I have three beautiful daughters and 6 delightful young grandchildren.

    As I approach 60 my life is pretty darn good.

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  4. Better early than late, but late than never. That's what I told myself, and it was true.

    So glad that things are going well for you!

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  5. Obviously all our stories have a fair amount in common, we follow certain stages with this condition and many of us wind up in the same place, and we're much happier for it. The question of when we arrive can't be as important as that we arrive. I read a story once about a woman in her seventies who had finally realized she couldn't live a lie anymore and went through with the change. Amazing.

    The thing to remember is that it's all relative, things could have been different, maybe they could have been better, who knows. I'm fairly young, but even I sometimes wish that I had had the balls (she said with no concern for irony) to do this when I was a child and who knows, maybe even get hormones to prevent the irreparable damage of puberty. But I'm doing it now, living the life I want now, and that's what's important.

    That, and to live without regrets.

    RC

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