Sunday, 25 September 2011

Turning the tables: a protest against abandonment

The process of transition, once under way, leads to many upsets. We all know the kind of thing I'm talking about.

Different agegroups have their own problems to face. Teenagers and those of student age may well have to battle with parents who see them as sadly misguided children who have lost their way. But some face destructive and violent opposition. That kids can be hit or thrown out of their homes for 'coming out' and left to rot is astonishing in the twenty-first century, when we are all meant to be enlightened and well-informed, and free of the ignorant and old-fashioned dogmas and prejuduces of the past.

But that is just not the general reality. We are lucky to find acceptance, whatever our agegroup. As a late transitioner in my fifties - not a child - I faced horrendous opposition from my parents, who at first attempted to control me. But of course it was a knee-jerk reaction with no real clout to it, apart from the possibility of disinheritance, which did not actually occur. To their credit, Mum and Dad did not cut me out of their Wills. But I think I was lucky.

The expectation is still that the announcement of gender dysphoria will send everyone else into a spin, with entirely unpredictable individual reactions. A few will immediately cluster round. Thank God for them: they can never, never be repaid fully for their goodwill - that strong comforting arm around one's shoulders when it is needed most. Many will sit on the fence, attempting to be neutral but not in fact helping at all. And some - from desperation or shock or outrage - will become enemies, whether they mean to be or not.

I'm naming no names. But I'm looking back; and I'm looking at what is; and I'm thinking of the future. I want to figure it out. Why did so many of those who populated my former life seem to abandon me? And why do they stay away? Especially when we got on so well once.

I can of course think of some possible reasons - instant judgements of me based on nothing - that could persist in people's minds. Reasons to distance themselves from me, and then stay well away:

# This is too hard to understand. It's embarrassing. Keep it all at arm's length.
# I've been having a 'mid-life crisis'.
# I must be seriously mad, or suffering from some awful mental delusion, disease or condition. Like Borderline Personality Disorder or some kind of Autism. I'm behaving as if possessed.
# I've been somehow 'radicalised': I've read something and I've seized on a dangerous idea that is completely wrong. Evidence of imbalance and a weak mind.
# I've fallen under the influence of medical people with an interest in exploiting me - I am therefore revealed as an easily-led victim of cynical professionals and quacks.
# I must have a fetish about all things female. I must be steeped in sexual perversion. Morbidly interested in genitalia. A disgusting weirdo then.
# I'm out of control, liable to self-harm, and mutilate myself with unnatural surgery. Even more weird.
# I must in fact be an all-round pervert.
# I simply want attention. I'm utterly selfish and cruel. I care only for myself. I'm horrible.
# I must have deceived everyone all my life. What a devious, dishonest, two-faced person I must have been all along.
# I've betrayed my parents and my partner. Unforgiveable.

None of the above was ever true, and nobody who abandoned me ever got in touch to ask what on earth was going on, and could I give my side of it so that they could understand better? And maybe help in some way?

There was one person who wrote in late 2009, not knowing what had happened. He'd been a schoolfriend. I replied with a letter in which I said baldly that I was transsexual. The Iron Curtain came down. I have not heard from him since. He was incidentally a Christian. So much for the brotherhood of man.

I do want to know what really made them all leap backwards away from me and shun me henceforth. But I suspect that I will never know, and must leave things as they are. They have gone from my life, even though I was very fond of many of them. And perhaps they can never return. Too much time has gone by. The moment back in the autumn or winter of 2008/2009 when they could have picked up the phone, written a letter, sent an email, has long passed. They were not there when I needed them. It's much too late to help now. There's a gulf that nothing can bridge.

I was made to feel an outcast. I was made to feel that I owed an apology. That I had to make the first move towards any reconciliation, risking rejection, or a snub that might have destroyed my remaining self-esteem. I was criminalised. It was 'my fault'. Not a consequence of the way I was made. I had a conscious will to disrupt and destroy, not caring what happened, and that was my crime.

Well, I protest.

I've nothing more to lose now. And I protest. I don't need to elaborate on what might be said to those who chose to leave me and stay away. All transsexual people can fill in the words. We know. And we know that there is no going back. All you can do is remember the best moments from the past, the best achievements, the things that can still be cherished, and then take your life forward on an entirely new footing that necessarily excludes most of what came before.

What do I say to anyone who once knew me, realises that all was not black-and-white, realises that they could have asked for my version and seen something different, and now contacts me to build a bridge? Well, I'd be delighted, if they had the guts to try. I wouldn't put them off at all. But they'd have to face reality. It wouldn't be possible to carry on as if nothing had happened. The rules of engagment have changed. I will be insisting on certain things. And they'll have to adapt to the new me, and accept me for what I am. So no rebuilding what was: instead, an entirely new construction from the ground up. From Ground Zero you might say.

4 comments:

  1. Hummmm... Might I ask who exactly abandoned whom?

    A sex change is about as radical a change as a person can undertake short of death! The reason we do it is BECAUSE it fundamentally changes who we are! So back up and look at this one again! The ones you are saying abandoned you were his friends and his family and his associates... not YOURS! They were his friends and his family and his associates! Really now! It's not as if you did this at 12, or 22, or 32, or 42... you waited until you were in your fifties with maybe a whole twenty to thirty years left on the planet and you expect them all to suddenly forget the preceding five decades of experiences cause you had an epiphany? Mean while you are not willing to forgive them for their being frail humans unwilling to instantly deny everything they have seen every day for decades?

    Come on now! It's not as if you had said to all of them you were taking up a new hobby... You announced to the world that you were changing your sex! That hence forth the man they had known for fifty some odd years was dead and gone! That you, this utter stranger to them, who strongly resembled him but is now dressing in woman's clothing was taking his place... Oh no biggie there! Now could you pass the potatoes please?

    Frankly? after all that time I too would have looked at you as likely crazy, deluded, or carried away on a sexual issue or fetish! While I hate to be the bearer of bad news I'm afraid the onus is on you and you alone here... It is up to you to bear witness that you are indeed a woman and to be patient while they sort out what you took fifty years to come to grips with... and if it takes them as long to deal with it as it did you then so be it!

    Sure it sucks and it would be ever so nice to have the love and support of a family and friends while you undertake one of the harder things a human can do but taint the case cause you left them first! So deal with it! It is part of the price you pay for the tune YOU called...

    PS Demanding that the world conform to you and your needs? You might want to run that one by the male-privilege-O-meter a few times... just saying!

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  2. Well - disagree with a lot of Miz Know-It-All there.

    "The reason we do it is BECAUSE it fundamentally changes who we are!",she says.

    Well not for me.

    At all.

    I didn't turn into someone else, I revealed myself. I never changed from man to woman, I was woman all along and unable, for various reasons, to face it, or deal with it. Until eventually I could..had to because the alternative was truly dreadful.

    Those who stayed with me, in my life, saw many things about me that they recognised still... though they had to adjust. They focused on what was the same, which was all the truly important stuff, though I asked them to adjust the lens they were using. That's not about male privilege, that's a human right. The right to be treated as me. I couldn't demand that they did this, though many did, but that's another matter.

    You don't have to just 'suck it up' Lucy. Though we cannot make anyone behave in any way towards us, we can ask that the world might actually listen to our story. Pay us that respect rather than judge us based on falsehoods, pure prejudice or lies. And I also believe we have a right to ask the world to stop behaving as if it is incumbent upon us to prove the veracity of our feelings and our lives. We should be allowed the right to define and own our own experiences and have them treated as valid.

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  3. @Miz Know-it-all:
    Well, thanks for putting me down for 'abandoning' the very people who shunned me or stayed neutral and failed to cluster round. Or for judging them harshly when clearly they judged me very, very harshly on hearsay evidence alone. I really do think that a lot of people acted ignorantly, unfairly and unjustly, whether by deliberate choice or by doing nothing, and I'm not afraid to frankly say so. If I'm wrong, why can't they put me right? And if some stood by me, then why not the rest?

    Even if those who pursed their lips and shrank back with horror or disgust couldn't be bothered to ask me what happened, they've had a while to reconsider, and eveidence on which to modify their initial view. They've had over two two years of this blog to refer to. It's public evidence of my mental state and attitudes, and the real things I get up to. It has contained many posts in which I analyse what I think about my own transsexuality, and how it has changed - or not at all changed - my life. I must have revealed my true nature on many occasions. And I don't think it is a bad nature that deserves ongoing condemnation.

    Nor has my supposed oddness or insanity dragged me into the pit. In fact I've done rather well, with a properly planned transition that has successfully passed its various stages. Good evidence, I would have thought, of mental balance, realistic expectations, attention to essential priorities, and perseverence. Quite apart coping well with the exterior pressures of parental death and financial ruin. In a different context, my 'old self' would have been a minor hero for an equivalent accomplishment. Say the old me had taken a difficult Open University degree course, graduated with honours, and had embarked on a wonderfully impressive and creative new career. How praiseworthy! But as it happened to be 'only' a 'sex change' it meant nothing, and it continues to be regarded as a tragedy.

    I'm not so naive as to have any real hopes of winning these people back. If only because the bond has been snapped. They can only come into my life again if we make a fresh start.

    Nor am I wasting my life. I don't think this is the blog of a bitter person seething with anger and paralysed with self-pity. In many ways I'm having the time of my life, now that I have full control of it.

    I don't mind comments that touch on aspects of this that I haven't seen or have been dismissing. Certainly, it was put to me long ago that the onus was indeed on me to contact people and put my case to them. I did not agree then, and I still don't, but I could be mistaken. There is always more than one way to approach a situation, and I'm human enough (I hope!) to make big errors here.

    Lucy

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  4. Lucy,
    My comment, harsh as it may have seemed, was not meant to add to your burden, rather consider it a reflection from one who went down that road a long time ago... Someone who has had many many years to reflect on this very thing and having watched the process in others from the sides a few times as well as my own, to see it from both perspectives.

    What I came to realize was, that painful as it was to experience, you were not abandoned! We all make social contracts with those we interact with and the closer the person the more conditions there are upon that contract, and right there at the top of the list is our sex! Your male friends were friends of a bloke who no longer exists and your female friends were friends with a fella who... no longer exists!

    It was you Lucy, just as it once was MKIA who changed the contract with her friends, or should I say "his" friends? Because bottom line. they were his friends, not mine or your's

    You used the analogy of yours having bested a harsh contest, and to you that is correct... but to them it is no different than if you had died! And that is really not far from the truth as the fella they knew is no more! (read Kubler-Ross and it will make more sense)

    Look had you entered into this with the intent of staying the same, well there wouldn't have been much point in doing it now would there? You, Lucy are a very different person than the one they knew and that alone changes things!

    So there it is in a nut shell, the contract you had was broken (by you) and you are not the same person...

    Those are two pretty big strikes against someone who held one of the old contracts in starting a new contract with you wouldn't you agree?

    Now there really is an upside to this believe it or not! You see one of the things that has to happen if you are to move forward is you have to make new friends, new acquaintances and new relationships! So even if the old group had acceded to your wishes and followed you, in time, it would have been you leaving them as you would have found most of them to be an unwanted anchor to something you were trying to leave!

    Honest! I mean what sort of real relationship can you have with someone who "tolerates" you? Or with someone who "accepts" you... with reservation? As for full on acceptance? It's a myth! Either they are in deep denial and they are really just tolerating the old bloke with his new eccentricities, or they are that uber rare person who was actually able to re-write the social contract... and they are VERY rare!

    I have exactly two in my life who were really capable of that feat, and the rest? Either they left me or I left them and now, I've a whole new set of relationships as MKIA

    I know first hand how hard and bitter it is but in the long run it really is for the best...

    MKIA

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Lucy Melford