Thursday, 1 March 2012

Three months only for total preparation

I can hardly believe it. So much sooner than I ever expected. I'm so excited.

My step-daughter A--- has said in an email that she (and presumably her husband S---, and their two little kids T--- and K---) is coming over to the UK from New Zealand in June and July! And she wants to see me too! Oh, joy of joys. The main reason is that it will be S---'s dad's 70th birthday. But of course it's also my 60th birthday around the same time. It looks as if I'll be able to see them in London, or wherever else they are staying during their visit. A week in Cornwall or Kent was mentioned - no firm plans yet, but once I know, then one or more meetups will be a priority, even if it means taking the caravan to Cornwall for a day with them. As if that would be a bind.

Clearly I have three months now in which to lose the fat slobby look and become toned and bronzed and super-elegant, and generally as well turned-out as I can be. I so much want to make a great first impression in the flesh. A--- knows what I 'look like' in still photographs that I've emailed to her, and (if she's had the time, with two young kids to run after) she may have been dipping into my blog, which often has up-to-date pix of myself. Or my Flickr site, which carries a lot of them. But she hasn't seen any video footage, and we haven't Skyped. So she'll be unprepared for any unfamiliar grace or lightness in her ex-Stepdad's movements, and the trained female voice may come as a shock. I'm confident however that as far as appearances go, all will be well on our first real-life encounter since the end of 2008.

But I have no idea how S-- will react, nor the kids, nor S---'s mum and dad, nor S---'s brother and his wife. And I already know (secondhand, based on what M--- told me some time ago) that A---'s schoolfriends S--- and E--- have struggled to accept that the male person they knew from their girly teens has morphed into a woman called Lucy.

I may not meet everyone of course, and those who are still struggling may be spared a confrontation that might upset or embarrass them. For my part, I am ready to see anyone, and if the reaction is negative, then I will simply carry on and not feel bruised and hurt. After all, I am most unlikely to win everybody's regard.

But even if all is hugs and kisses and delighted laughter, once the initial pleasure has settled down the adults will want to ask questions about how all this came about. Especially as for so many years there was no sign at all that I had a gender problem - or indeed any problem at all. Because I wasn't an unsuccessful person, and I was very amiable and well-tempered, very considerate and caring, not odd or excessive in any way. Maybe I was a bit wussy sometimes, and slightly tetchy at other times, but hey ho, nothing to remark on. The phrase 'regular bloke' might have fitted, except that I cared nothing for sporty things, and wasn't a great hand at DIY or any of the usual 'man things'.

But I had never been seen in a dress, or in high heels, or in a wig, or wearing lipstick, not even as a joke. So how come?

I had thought of pointing out that there were small indications aplenty: girly hairstyles, girly glasses, girly jumpers, girly colours, girly jewellery, girly gestures and impulses here and there. Occasionally some people had thought me gay. But it had all been too low-key and too androgynous to be much noticed, and indeed I hadn't really wanted any of it to be picked up. That would have been much too challenging. But I knew I was consciously subverting my supposed maleness all the time. I thought that this was the only thing I could do. I had no idea, even into the late 2000s, that my lifelong secret wistful yearning to be female could be examined clinically, and that there was a medical answer that would transform my life. I did not discover that until 2008. Meanwhile it was fun (and some kind of relief) to push the boundaries just a bit, and deliberately undermine ny maledom in small ways. But externally I remained the regular nice guy with the big belly and stubbly face and hairy legs. The son to be proud of. And that must have been the overriding impression for decades, even if I sported the odd quirky jumper and wore a necklace and rings, which I did all the time from the early 1990s. There was never any unequivocal and convincing evidence of gender dysphoria, all dammed-up and ready to burst forth.

People like me, who lack a track record of cross-dressing, who so consistently sat on their inner feelings, have a real problem 'explaining' to others later on how they so easily and completely and rapidly transitioned into their female alter ego. It doesn't seem natural, because I looked so much like an ordinary man. I have to get around that fixation on outward appearance. It would all have been so much easier, and would have occasioned so little surprise, if I'd been ultra-effeminate, and frankly looked like a girl all along. No explanations would have been looked for then.

So how to approach this? It was a remark made by Jane Fae in a post today that suggested a possible route. She said that trans men had been having babies for years. It was nothing new or newsworthy, or fit for horror.

I immediately saw what she meant. There are an awful lot of women out there who are really trans men, except that they will never do anything about it. They may not need to. They may not want to. Or they may feel trapped in a family situation that they simply can't disrupt.

They used to be (and may still be) pretty young things. The kind of girl that every man wants. Gorgeous, sweet-natured, sexy. But really they are undiagnosed gender dysphorics. They are trans men, not all to the same extent, but it has always been in them, in their brains, and if they could have recognised it early on - or if anyone else did - their lives might have taken a different course. But everybody saw a pretty girl and nothing else. So did they. And appearances mean so much, especially when you're young.

But really they were men with female bodies. And those lovely bodies - full of female capability and female hormones - led them into falling in love, getting pregnant, bearing a child, giving birth, and becoming mothers. The natural sequence of events for someone who seems to be a pretty girl. Even if mentally they are men. And that, I believe, is what Jane was meaning about trans men having babies from time immemorial.

Trans men are if anything more puzzling, more shocking than trans women. It seems like sacrilage. Why would a lovely young woman yearn to be a man? Why deliberately dismantle her external beauty to match a mental state within? How awful for parents and brothers and everyone who knows 'her'. But of course the real awfulness is for the trans man himself.

I need to get across that (a) any pretty girl may be a trans man, and that her looks are no guide to how she feels inside; (b) the urge to mend the mismatch between what's inside and what's outside is irresistible once recognised; and (c) the girl so affected can only be truly happy once 'mended'. If I can make these points, then I may be able to explain better how it is with trans women like myself. It'll need some work to boil my spiel down to a few easily-digested sentences, but I'm sure that discussing trans men first is a good approach. Especially as the subject of trans men has not been blurred and confused by portrayals of panto dames, pageant queens, and fetish partygoers, none of which have anything to do with my life.


  1. When I was a female back in the 80's, people used to stop me and ask me if I was Kylie Minogue. Honestly. I was a pretty little thing. ;)

    Now I'm an ugly transman. I get the "WHY!!!" question all the time.

  2. Joe....that was because the overcoat didn't suit you! proves that it isn't a case of 'somewhere over the rainbow' but more 'somewhere on the spectrum', there is no hard and fast rule to explain why we as (once)trans people arrived at our destinations in the manner we did. As long as we get to our destination I think that is all that matters. In your past you were subtlety revealing the woman inside by the little things you did.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  3. I'm SO happy for you. What wonderful news that your step-daughter wants to meet you. Surely this will be the best of all possible birthday presents!

    Lots of time to plan (and too worry!)... and how lovely that it's all going to happen 'on my doorstep'. We must meet up and have another birthday celebration.

    With love and best wishes,
    Angie x

  4. Angie, it may be London and Kent, and not Cornwall. But I'm minded to visit Cornwall again regardless, and have a little celebration with you!



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