Tuesday, 1 July 2014

But I am only myself

T-Central generally features some pretty good posts from around the trans world, and I happened to read the latest earlier this morning, from a blog called Ordinary, Average Woman. It was published only yesterday. See http://wilnottel.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/what-my-life-is-like-beyond-curtain.html. The author has gone through The Process and has ended up, after a couple of location changes, and a career switch, as a regular American woman.

That sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Successful passing; the compromising personal history left behind, and not even suspected, subject only to a certain amount of ongoing care and discretion to preserve that happy status quo.

Except that it isn't perfectly happy. The author has a wife and family, and remains in a pivotal role as father, husband, and the main provider. She accepted that role as one of life's natural inevitabilities, whether or not it now seems a fair deal in retrospect. Life just went that way. And despite a successful transition, she can't escape the male duties and responsibilities: she is reminded of them all the time.

She feels she ought not to kick against her situation. Her wife (as I read it) has been, and still is, heroically understanding and supportive, the children accepting. But the author is deeply conscious of being a source of problems and tensions.

Her life has narrowed, the finishing touches to complete her female appearance postponed. This is the self-imposed price of family love and solidarity. She loses herself in work, and permits herself only an occasional escape into the female social world, and feminine company. A male escort for outings - male companionship without strings - seems an impossible dream. She is wistful for Something More.

This is her life 'beyond the curtain'. Before she transitioned, she was advised during therapy that she'd need to take drastic measures to leave the Old Life behind, so that she could embrace the New. She gradually did that over the years, but keeping her wife and family. I admire that huge achievement. She let nobody down. But it hasn't left her free. And the successful burying of the past means that nothing of her difficult journey can be openly celebrated. Nobody in the present life knows about it, except close family. Psychologically this is not good.

So the tone of her post is regretful, not for transitioning, but for being stuck with something that is not the simple, carefree female life that was hoped for.

The first commentator had this to say:

I don't mean to sound cruel (in fact I can understand and sympathise better than most with your situation) BUT!

Your wife (being a woman), dreamt of those same things, dreamt of a man like that.....

And what has she now? (and why does she have that?)

The thing about women is, we get no "excuses" in life (men do, men can often weasel their way out of suffering the consequences of their actions and decisions with the help of other men and because women are forgiving/compassionate/naïve)

women always suffer a consequence not just for our own actions, but often for the choices others (men) make for us. 

Your wife did the best she could to find that man she desired (and she thought she had in you), but because of your decisions she never got what she sought (not really) and her chances of having that dream (living that "fairy-tale") at the age she's now at are likely gone, taken from her through no fault of her own.

how many women get blamed for their own rape with the mans excuse being: "she wanted it" because she wore revealing clothes.

How many women forfeit their youth and life to look after a child whose father walked out on them? (when at the time he told us he loved us and wanted to spend the rest of his life with us, because he wanted sex)

That's life for women.

your life is a consequence of your decisions early on and maybe you'll say you were young and stupid SO WHAT?

and then maybe you'll say you didn't "know"

to which I would respond: I'll bet that isn't what you told your psychiatrist, I'll bet you told them you'd "always known"....


So which is it?

Life is not "fair" for women your actions will show who you are, are you going to be a hypocrite? (a man) do you think you can hold out forever?

That's a hard comment for anyone to read. But you can see it from the wife's point of view, can't you? And yet what is the real answer? It's a contest between the psychological needs of the transitioner and the psychological needs of those emotionally bound to her. Which is the more important? We all face the same issue. I decided for myself that suppressing the nagging self-knowledge, not seeking the medical interventions necessary, would for certain turn my mind and destroy my relationship. A controlled transition might not. As it happened, there was still a shipwreck, and dire pain on both sides. So my 'achievement' was less successful than the author's. And where am I now? What am I? Really, no more than a person without a role, who fills her life with pleasures that don't matter a damn.

So I added my own comment:

And I can't avoid adding the brutal and obvious point that to decisively move forward one has to give up everything in the Old Life - partner, family and friends - and begin again. Anything else is a compromise that will prove frustrating in the long run. 

Some people who never had children, whose parents die, and whose partner deserts them, find themselves freed up to abandon the Old Life and fully embrace the New. I'm one of those. Am I lucky? I can certainly live a proper female life out in public, and do what I like without guilt or restraint, but in a perfect world I'd want to keep it all. And despite the freedom I am on my own with no definite role, no responsibilities and obligations, and no emotional or financial safety net. I still think the New Life is preferable, but it's not perfect. 

So if you chafe at looking and feeling female, but are still bound fast to the male role that past circumstances gave you, don't be too wistful for an imagined pure existence. You have much that I haven't. I wouldn't do a swap with you, but I would say that your life has meaning and importance lacking in mine. I can be as feminine as I please, 24/7, without care; I can be as self-indulgent as I can afford; I enjoy universal acceptance; but I am only myself.


Sometimes a comment left on someone else's blog contains a great truth, and needs to be lifted out and highlighted. Don't misunderstand me: I am not being despondent and discouraged. I feel very positive, very hopeful, very much in control, wonderfully independent. I love the many ways in which my life has blossomed since leaving my previous existence behind. And what a rich harvest of new friends! But at the same time, my life is, let's face it, without any definite purpose, and has no bearing on any other. It can be justly considered frivolous, lightweight and unimportant. The author of Ordinary, Average Woman has a life which seems more valuable than mine, at least in relation to its impact on other people close to her. She is underrating her importance.

I'm no philosopher, and the deeper implications of not having a meaningful life are invisible to me, and do not worry me. Public acceptance, public respect and unfettered personal choice seem sufficient prizes. But I am a bit wistful for not being at the heart of a private world, at the very core of a family, with many persons looking to me for leadership, wisdom, guidance and inspiration: their rock. Instead I'm peripheral.

That easy and uncomplicated position on the edge, in independent orbit, the solitary and absolute ruler of my own little domain, is of course the right thing for my temperament. I would not cope well with a central role. Perhaps some of the advantages and consolations I enjoy may even seem enviable. All the same, a solitary life, however gloriously free, however magnificently self-indulgent, however eloquently described, is useful to nobody else.


  1. I've read yours and Shirley Anne's response to Ordinary, Average Woman but won't be adding my own, despite my situation being similar in many respects to the writer's. Indeed, I covered some of the aspects, from my own perspective, in my post Reasons to be Michael: part 2.

    Shirley Anne is right to remark that Anonymous has no concept of how it feels to live with gender dysphoria. But what really upsets me with Annon's comment is the implication that Lady Withsass (what a name!) can't fully empathise with her wife's feelings - that men can weasel out of their responsibilities whereas women are stuck with them. I know two men whose wives walked out on them, leaving them to bring up the children, and a fine job they've made of it.

    I realize that I've put my wife under a lot of pressure through allowing Angie to blossom, but I have to tell you - without going into any detail - that being married to her hasn't always been a bed of roses. Did I try to weasel out and leave her to cope alone? No I did not! That's what devoted marriage is about. We're in it for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

    Ok, right now the balance has swung to her giving and me receiving. But what of the future? What if my wife one day needs my constant care? What if she is struck with Alzheimer's and doesn't even remember who I am? Will I stop loving her; stop repaying the love she has for me?

    Annon's version of marriage, where women are stuck with the responsibility and men get the freedom, isn't true marriage at all. And I don't reckon it's Lady Withsass's marriage either.

  2. I think Lady Withsass has done a remarkable thing in keeping her family together in such difficult circumstances and has certainly not weaseled her way out of her responsibilities. That to me shows great love and perseverance.
    Shirley Anne x

  3. What a beautiful comment, Shirley Anne! My heart really goes out to the blogger and her wife and even those like the woman who filed the original anonymous comment (simply because she doesn't appear to understand the incredible battle that goes on inside of someone who is transsexual).

    Lucy, I'm going to try to feature your post, which is so well written.

    My own situation is the result of marrying at a young age as a way to "fix" the root problem. The love grew, as did the family, and a transition for me at this time is simply out of the question. I deal with it in my own ways, as I've written about many times in my own (dreadfully non-updated) blog and I keep my family together.

    Calie xx

  4. As I posted on the other blog, I don't think that you have to cut the old life off. How it goes for the person is how it goes. I don't feel that I remain in the male, bread winning responsible role. Maybe that is just because we shared it before.

    My colleagues accept me for who I am, that much is very easy to see in the way that act with me. As do my friends. In fact my mum said she had a daughter as soon as I decided I needed to transition, not from when I went full time.

    My friends are the same as before, and again treat me as Stacy, not as him.

    I don't think that there is a right or wrong way to do this (or maybe there is only a choice of wrong ways once you have a life). The only thing you can do is treat people with respect and be totally honest and open once you feel you have to transition.



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Lucy Melford