Late transitioners may put a brave face on it, but you can't escape the feeling that the greater part of your life has already passed, and that you haven't got much time left to savour life as you really want to live it. But I've done some figuring, and the situation now seems much better than I thought! It's quite heartening.
In my case, I officially went 'full time' on 1 November 2009, when my Deed Poll was executed and the two-year countdown to qualifying for my Gender Recognition Certificate began. It's a convenient date to use. It means - on the face of it - that the first 57.3 years of my life were lived as least partly as J---. Assuming that I might (with luck and care) live a further 30 years, you can understand why I'd regard 57.3/87.3 = 66% of my life (two thirds of it) as over. And, in the sense that I hadn't been able to present myself as Lucy in that long span of time, why I might feel that two-thirds of my life had been wasted.
It wasn't a complete waste, of course. You don't have to be your 'real' self to enjoy all sorts of things, and for your life to be greatly enhanced by them.
Think of any of those experiences that simply depend on being alive, and possessing the faculties to appreciate them. The joy of a glorious sunset; the joy of a song that moves you to tears; the joy of a wonderful book or a marvellous work of art; the joy of a carefree morning spent striding an empty moor in sunshine; the joy of a fast drive in a powerful car; the joy of personal creation; the joy of a meal you will never forget; the joy of a gift that lit up someone's face. And so on. I've had many of those moments. And there were many times when simply 'being me' and 'being there' made a huge difference. Those things can't be regarded as a waste of time.
But interpersonal relationships were indeed badly compromised, whether it was family, friends, neighbours or work colleagues. I look back on the confused way I felt about myself as a child, as a teenager, as a 'son' to my parents, as a supposed 'man' looking for love, as a supposed 'man' in leadership roles at work, as a supposed strong force and dependable provider and protector, as a marriage partner, as a step-parent, as my parents' eventual carer if they lived long enough. I look back, and I think to myself that all of these roles were a bodge. They were bodged because I was considered to be male, and conditioned for a male role in life. And because, believing I was what people said I was, I attempted the impossible and tried to be a man. It's a cop-out to say that 'society is to blame', but I now see myself as duped into living my life on entirely the wrong basis, with consequences (sooner or later) that nobody should have been surprised to see.
In fact I am developing quite a lot of anger about how I was made to conform and live up to expectations. I'm going to let it out, not bottle it up. But gently. I don't want the time ahead to be scarred by thoughts of what might have been if everyone had had a different mindset, and could have recognised me then for what I really was. I like being happy and optimistic and upbeat. I don't want resentfulness and regret to take me over.
As I went to bed last night I had those wasted years on my mind. Over five decades, whichever way you look at it. Then one or two notions occurred to me. Surely it was not so bad as I thought?
For one thing, even if I had been aware as a four or five year old child that I was transsexual, I was nevertheless a careful and wary child who quickly recognised danger, and I wouldn't have 'come out' while parents, doctors, schoolteachers and authority in general could have intervened in my life. I would have most certainly sat on my self-knowledge, and waited until I was officially an adult - which happened in 1970, when I reached the age of eighteen.
I'm quite sure I'd have bided my time, and not impetuously blurted out my awful secret. The consequences of a premature disclosure would have been frightening. I can think of two likely scenarios. First, I could have stayed at home, but the doctors would have examined me. The diagnosis would have been misconceived, the correction treatments at mental hospitals dire. Once an adult, I had safeguards. I might still be 'sectioned' and end up in a mental institution to be drugged or electrocuted, but it would be much harder to get me there. Or second, I would have fled home and tried my luck in London - but without money, and without a completed education. I would most likely have faced a short-and-dirty existence out on the streets, with only crime and addiction to look forward to.
No, I would have hidden the girl inside until it was safe to emerge. I needed my education, so that I could get a job and earn money. Getting an office job in 1970 was easy if you had good qualifications. It wouldn't matter if your appearance was a bit strange, so long as you spoke well, were smartly-dressed and intelligent, and properly deferential to your employers. It was an intolerant world in many ways, but my goodness, I know for a fact that during the early 1970s local recruitment in the Inland Revenue accepted many oddball characters. I'd have been all right. It would have been worth waiting. Once safely in a job, safely in a home of my own, however humble, I could have gradually turned J--- into Lucy.
But all this caution means that there was never a possibility that the real me, Lucy, could have had any kind of expression before age eighteen. So at a stroke it becomes unrealistic to assert that all of those 57.3 years as J--- were wasted. I must take off the first 18 years. Ah...only 39.3 years wasted now. That's a bit better.
What about my time at work? Even if I changed my name and appearance on the job, as I now know (in retrospect) could have been have done in my particular Department any time from the year 2000 onwards, the duties were the same whether male or female, and feminine expression was limited. 'Being Lucy' would amount to little more than dressing the part. I don't think that counts. So let's exclude the time at work, all of it after my eighteenth birthday. I'll spare you the calculations, but I've worked out that in all I spent about 58,000 hours at the office in my thirty-five year career, the equivalent of 6.6 years. We're now down to only 32.7 wasted years (39.3 less 6.6).
Of course, while asleep and unconscious, you are not living in any mode, so let's now deduct the time spent sleeping. I have, for as long as I can remember, been happy with six hours each night. Let me see: in the pre-November 2009 period after age eighteen that would be 6 hours x 365 nights x 39.3 years = 86,067 hours, or 9.8 years. And in the post-November 2009 period, 6 hours x 365 nights x 30 years = 65,700 hours, or 7.5 years. If you are still following this, the wasted years now reduce to just 22.9 (32.7 less 9.8). As against a net 22.5 for the Lucy years (30 less 7.5).
Now that's much better! It means that when I changed my name by Deed Poll in 2009, I had 22.5 of the 45.4 (22.9 plus 22.5) possible years of 'conscious Lucy living' still ahead of me. I was still only halfway through them. That's not so bad. In fact, three cheers!
It still doesn't tidy up the dreadful fallout from transition - the 'collateral damage' and the losses and the hurt - but at least I no longer feel that I've embarked on a new phase of existence so short that it's not worth the effort.