When I was at the beginning of my transition, the end result, a fully-feminised version of myself, seemed attainable but a very long way off. Years away, in fact. The 'process' was going to be grindingly slow.
I looked in the mirror at myself as I was then, and then looked at the finished trans women who occasionally came to the Clare Project in Brighton as visitors, and I couldn't see how the gulf between them and myself could ever be bridged. It seemed to require not only a vast amount of time and expense, but a magic wand as well. Even though I was fascinated by these polished, smooth-faced, silver-voiced females, their achievement seemed dauntingly out of reach, and if I'd been of a different stamp, I would have been discouraged and depressed.
Of course, I've come some distance since then. I'm still a work in progress, but 'nearly there' has recently been said of my appearance and behaviour, and I'm prepared to accept and believe the compliment.
But could I now be, in my turn, a potential discouragement to newbies? And not just me, any post-op trans woman who is living that open life in the sunshine, and is not stuck in the shadows?
I had been explaining (or justifying) my continuing visits to the Clare Project by regarding myself as a positive role model. Not to be slavishly copied, but an example of how one person has got on with her transition and made a moderate success of it. The message was, 'I did it my way, and you will have to do it your own way, but look, see what can be done with unpromising material. If you're younger, prettier, concentrate on acquiring a good voice, and get rid of your facial hair, you'll turn out even better than I have'. But lately I've begun to wonder whether I'm actually an irrelevance rather than an inspiration to those starting out on the long journey to womanhood. Perhaps they'd prefer to see half-formed women who are still suffering their doubts and frustrations, and seem much closer to themselves.
And another thought: even after three years of relentless effort and a small fortune spent, I'm still not perfect. That might make some on a small budget, who have to go slowly and appease endless gateway keepers, think that they will never get there. I don't want them to have such thoughts.
So it's quite a difficult position. I'm too far down the road (or too quirky, or too much in control of my own life) to seem properly empathetic to those starting out. But at the same time I'm clearly not a fully-finished product, despite telescoping the process as far as I can.
Might it be better to stay out of sight?