Friday, 9 September 2011

Getting ready for a managed withdrawal

Two recent incidents have made it plain to me that I'm not going to be part of the mainstream 'trans world' for much longer. If, that is, I ever was!

The first incident was last Tuesday evening, when enjoying the Clare Project Posh Nosh evening meal out in Brighton. Somehow I felt a bit out of it. The company was fine; but, fresh from ordinary everyday social encounters in North Devon, it seemed like a specialist event that wasn't right for me any more. Frankly, I was having to work at being 'trans', and at talking about trans stuff, rather than simply being another woman in a restaurant. It came as a bit of a jolt. I had faithfully attended most Clare Project functions for the best part of three years, ever since my first public debut as Lucy Melford early in December 2008. Now, suddenly, a feeling was crystallising that this was no longer my scene.

I feel sad about this realisation. I suppose it was inevitable, but I thought that I'd have a regular role to play as an 'experienced transitioner' for a long time to come, and would still be attending CP drop-ins and other events for as long as I lived near Brighton. But now it feels like hanging around your old school, when you've taken your exams, passed with good grades, and are already immersed in the next stage of your life. Really, a closed chapter. I'm sure that I shall still turn up at the Tuesday afternoon drop-in as much as before, but only because I hope to see people I like. And I want to attend the Christmas gathering. But maybe no more Posh Noshes.

The other happening was only yesterday. A friend emailed me about poems she had written on her personal trans experiences, and she asked me whether I'd evaluate their worth. I had to say no.

Firstly, I hate offering any criticism, whether well-intentioned or not. I simply couldn't be 'honest' if it might be damaging or upsetting. I'd want to find only nice things to say, positive things. People's feelings matter, especially where creative writing on an intensely personal subject is concerned.

Secondly, dealing now with technical issues, who was I to judge whether the form, style, language and effect of the poems was 'right'? In my view, poetry was a completely free medium for written self-expression, and there were no 'rules'. I did say that bad poetry was verse that was meaningless and failed to engage the reader. But I knew of no tests for 'good' poetry.

Thirdly, the subject was the friend's personal experiences. I didn't know her well, which would be a handicap. But I felt that in any case her experiences might be very different from my own. How was I to relate to them? Supposing she'd had feelings far deeper than than I am capable of? In several ways there could be a gulf of misunderstanding, and while this wouldn't be a bar to actually reading the poems themselves, I wouldn't want to pull them to bits with only my own trans experience and emotional background to refer to. That would be very unfair.

I went on to think how far from typical I am. But then many, many other trans people must surely say the same thing. We all go through a similar medical process, but really there is very little other than that process to bind us together. We were different before transition, and we'll revert to our differences afterwards. I suppose this means that many people who come into one's life during transition will at some point disappear from it. Quite a saddening thought; but you can't sustain a connection once the active bond has receded into the past.

This must all have something to do with identity. I've said before that so far as I am concerned, I am never likely to fully complete my transition, because there is simply so much to learn about 'being a woman' and so much to forget or suppress about 'being a man'. I think it's likely to take the rest of my life. But clearly the major part, the essential part, of the 'transition process' is now over. That fact alone might lead me to say that I'm no longer an active member - or a member at all - of the 'trans community' as generally understood. No longer in the midst of a great transformation that might be the subject of a TV documentary, for example. I certainly don't feel able to say anything now on the Angels or Roses's websites. And I don't want to be a 'trans personality' or 'trans spokesperson' or in any way a representative for the community.

So who I am now identifying with? Well, ordinary women. And doing it quietly. I seem to be completely accepted for what I appear to be. Putting it another way, I'm not having to assert womanhood. I just do what I want to, go where I want to, speak to whomever I want to, and live a life that is getting increasingly less self-conscious. That's good. It means I'm engaged in a real and natural life, with much more attention for other people; more attention for practical things that have been set aside for too long and must be returned to.

Whither the blog? It will just go on. It has several roles quite independent of my transition story:

# It's an illustrated portal to my day-by-day life. My online diary of significant events and thinking. And in fact I copy the text twice a month and save it in Word documents for backup and future reference.
# So if there's a 'transition book' in me, I've got a growing body of material to base it on! But nobody should hold their breath for this august work.
# It's a portal to my Flickr site. Which is also geared to revealing where I go and what I see.
# It's a way for people to find out what I'm up to nowdays, and what attitudes I take. People who are no longer my supporters and allies, but who still want to keep tabs on me. I have faint hopes that eventually some of them will see that I was genuinely driven, was innocent of bad intent, and now live a fulfilling life that they ought to acknowledge.
# And of course for a long time to come I will have much to say about post-op life generally, and getting to grips with a world in which I'm treated as a woman in every context, not always to my advantage. Some of that could make interesting reading.

I missed the six-months anniversary of my surgery the other day. Completely forgot about it. It just shows how that event has disappeared into near-oblivion. I still have some visible suture lines and skin discolorations, but they are much faded, and there are no ongoing healing issues. So it's been easy to forget the immediate post-op regime. There's only the daily dilation, and that's as routine as cleaning my teeth. Some like to regard their surgery date as the first day of their new female life - a new Birth Day in fact. They are perfectly serious. I've met them. But for me, my birth date is the same as I ever had, and I see my life as a continuum, with the developments and events of the pre-transition era as valid and worth recording as those in the present era.

I'm emphatically a woman with a past.


  1. I think the choice is quite simple really, live in the past or get on with your life!

  2. What you've been saying in this post is what happens here in France: People get all excited because they've located another English family for us. They expect us to bond and have lots in common. If we wanted to meet lots of English people, we would have stayed in England.

    It's like having a kind of marker on our lapels when all we want to do is get on with out own lives.

  3. It seems so simple to my ears and mind. We started the process because the situation did not allow us to be the best person we could be. We struggle perhaps, but the goal should be just that, to be that best person, free of the distractions.

    Once you reach that goal, move on to the next goal, as individual as you are. Perhaps that might be to sample the finest scenery and food in the world and take photos and write descriptions of them.
    Whatever you choose to blog upon, I likely will continue to read and follow. You are a very interesting woman, and that has little to do with your history!

  4. The analogy of graduating from school is excellent! Some people do hang around their old school. That's usually because they don't have a life, because they've never moved on. You have a life, and you're moving on. It's not surprising that the "old school" no longer holds much appeal.

    I totally agree about birthdays. Mine is the same as it ever was. I remember my "anniversary," but that's just for me.

  5. Some trans friends of mine fall into the group who get support and comfort from an ongoing association with, and membership of, trans-organisations. We may feel obligations to give something back but having done that, I and a few other friends find comfort and support from the friends we made in trans-organisations but not the organisations themselves. If we want it, institutional support needs to come from the same diverse groupings that support the rest of society. We can develop, progress and enjoy the rest of lives detached from our trans-pasts.

  6. I think you were right to politely decline to evaluate your friend's poems, and you did it for the right reasons.

    I struggle with this whole dilemma too. Though my past is no secret, I live, work, relate to the world as entirely female. I don't need, or want a 'label' round my neck. I long ago dropped out of the trans social world - meeting up and being with people JUST because they had various versions of this experience. In fact I was barely in it. I remember sitting in a restaurant at Sparkle, two years ago with a group of people many of whom I'd not met before. Beyond a shared desire to present to the world in a particular way, and even that was only the broadest link looking at them all, we just had nothing much to say to each other.

    I still have 'trans' friends...but the friendship is based on much more than the 'trans' thing. We have found other things we like about each other - interests, outlooks, humour, music, beliefs. It is, as you say, a bit like being at school - the 'circumstantial' friendships forged there, based - you realise later - on just a shared experience of the time, decline when that experience is no longer there to hold them together.

    I am active in 'trans politics' - a bit. I do it because I still do find common ground with others in looking back at the abuse, the prejudice, the bigotry we all faced as we tried to make our journeys. For me that journey is pretty much over now...I am almost where I need to be. But I do feel that sense of injustice and unfairness very strongly still, and if I can do a little to stop it happening to others who come after, then that seems worthwhile. It's maybe even feels more a human rights instinct than something specific to 'trans'.

  7. I've never been keen on school or college reunions and have no desire to live in the town where I grew up. Life is a journey and it's good to move on, taking with us just the things important to us. Live your new life to the full, Lucy.


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