Monday, 21 October 2013

Post-op attitudes

It will surprise nobody if I say that most - not all, but certainly most - of the people regularly in my social life are trans - and trans women at that. They fall into three groups.

First, the Clare Project crowd in Brighton, whom I see every Tuesday when I'm home in Sussex. These are primarily people starting their transition, or not very far into it, all pre-op.

Second, there are the people whom I meet up with for meals and drinks away from the CP, but still in and around Brighton. These have mostly finished their transition, and are post-op.

And then third, there are my co-bloggers past and present, the ones I have met at least once, who number fifteen so far. Some are starting their transition, some have finished. Some are pre-op, some post-op.

As you can see, although most of my social circle are trans women, they are at various stages between caterpillar and butterfly. So naturally they say different things about themselves and their lives, and what their attitudes and priorities are. It's very interesting to note how these change with time and development.

For instance, take attitudes to the genital surgery. Five years ago, when contemplating my own impending transition, this type of surgery was the huge glittering prize, eclipsing all other considerations. But its significance shrank. It remained an essential step towards full transition, but once the hospital arrangements were made it became simply a planned event that approached, arrived, was experienced, and then receded into the distance, rather like a much-anticipated holiday. And like such a holiday, all I have left of it now are memories and some photos. The surgery settled down long ago, the scars have healed and have mostly become unnoticeable, and the form and function of my new parts are assured. I am very aware of my female physicality, and the effect this has had on my outlook and behaviour, but the surgery itself has lost its novelty. It feels as if I have always been like this. And to be frank, I have forgotten how it once felt to have anything different.

Even the word 'surgery' has taken on a fresh meaning. Nowadays it means to me the normal cosmetic stuff that any woman might want, such as breast enhancement or face lifts. And in time it will refer to life-saving operations, as cancer and other dread things come into my life. But never again specifically and exclusively genital surgery.

I've noticed the same post-op attitude change with other members of my social circle. The merits of various cosmetic procedures might very well get talked about, including their cost, and whatever pet justifications there might be for the expense. But the genital operation, once over and done with, is not mentioned much, and maybe never will be again. That may be because it was not an operation that a natal woman would have needed, and therefore it's uncomfortable to refer to it. But I think it's mostly the effect of post-op living - you are able to get into the female role totally, and the enabling surgery simply becomes something that happened in the past. Something that you might remember clearly, but never need to discuss, like passing your driving test. People can see that you own a car, and so presumably you passed your test at some point, perhaps long ago. They won't be quizzing you about the test itself. Nor will you ever be mentioning it.

I can think immediately of at least one post-op person who bucks the trend here, who will be celebrating their 'real birthday' for as long as they live. And indeed why not? But among my Brighton friends this is not how it is.

And it seems that for post-ops the notion of 'transition' also becomes less and less significant. The same friends who have dropped genital surgery as a hot topic and want to talk instead about their jobs, relationships, dogs, and leisure activities, seem also to have stopped mentioning their transition. In other words, to the world they have always been 'like this', and so there is no need to discuss what was 'before', and the things that got them from 'then' to 'now'. I understand that - I tend to do the same. Life is definitely easier without a change process constantly in mind. I'm sure that a certain amount of beneficial self-deception is occurring here: if you can imagine (to the extent of effectively believing) that you have always been what you have now become, then every response you make is more natural, and everything you do and say is done and said with more conviction.

Where does this all lead to? What does one think when ten or twenty years post-op?

I'm guessing that there comes a point when all the events in transition are but very distant memories, like the events in a former marriage, long after the divorce. They do not touch present life, and are never mentioned, and might as well be forgotten. What, forget even the surgery? This must seem impossible to those beginning transition and struggling to start basic hormone treatment. But I feel sure that this is indeed how things do pan out in the long run. And it makes sense. If post-op life is to be a success, if assimilation into the world of women is to be fully achieved, with complete self-belief, one cannot keep dwelling on past events.


  1. I go even further Lucy, I almost never speak about trans. issues because they are no longer part of my life. What has past is left there in the past.

    Shirley Anne x

  2. If I had read this post a few years ago I doubt that I would have believed you but less than two years after leaving the hospital what once seemed like an impossible glittering prize is just a part of me I never really think about and as you say memory of previous function mysteriously gone.

    I have likened transition to being on a cruise with a group of fellow travellers, some of whom you will keep in touch later but most will drift off into their own distant lives.

    Human memory loss of past suffering is a great thing so we can get on with life and live in the here and now.


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