Thursday, 14 August 2014

Back from the Grave 7

This next post was a mistake. It contained a photo gallery - a series of pictures of myself to show how I had changed over the previous six years.

It's entirely natural to put out such posts in the early stages of transition. One wants to celebrate. One is so proud of the difference hormones have made. But in the later stages? And to include a pre-transition shot? Perhaps not such a good idea. I don't do things by halves. I didn't here. but I'm not showing the photos again.

The post was titled Six years of physical change - the gallery, and went out on 2 January 2013.

Let's be Janus-headed, and look both backwards and forwards, before launching firmly into 2013!

This post was sparked simply by transferring my passport from one handbag to another. A glance at the three-year-old passport photo suggested to me that it was high time for another long-term photo comparison. Not everyone can bear to do this. After all, if nothing else, a then-and-now sequence of pictures reveals the toll of time, and the effect of sundry woes and cares. But for trans people, the more change the better! The aim is to leave behind the hated old look as rapidly as possible, and progress towards something that is a lot closer to how things should rightly be.

So I'm going to kick off with a shot of myself in Bristol near the end of 2007, when I was moderately content with my life, perfectly able to laugh and smile, certainly having a decent time, but not actually singing and

[The pre-transition picture of me in 2007]

This was quite typical of how I used to look. I felt 'different', as I'd always felt 'different', but not consciously trans. I was trying hard to keep up the credible male image, even in retirement, and was succeeeding remarkably well on the whole.

One year later found me exiled in the Cottage just before Christmas, and feeling low. I'd had my 'Eureka Moment' of self realisation, had come out, but faced parental and partner incredulity and opposition. I think the underlying despondency shows in this shot, taken two days before Christmas 2008:

[An early-transition picture of me in late 2008]

More trouble lay ahead, but I was able to develop a friend base and was no longer isolated. Gradually things improved. I planned my way forward. I commenced hormone treatment, facial hair removal, and voice therapy. By the end of 2009, it was all starting to come together, certainly well enough to get around with some confidence. This shot was taken at an Italian restaurant in Clifton Down, Bristol, three days before Christmas 2009:

[A mid-transition, post Deed Poll, picture of me in late 2009]

2010 was a year of concentrated effort to push my transition forward. I spent a great deal of money on it. By the end of the year funds were running out, but I'd organised all that was needed to have my surgery on 1 March 2011. So the end of 2010 was carefree. The die was cast; my arrangements were all in place; I had nothing in particular to worry about, and went off to Cornwall in the caravan, snapping my fingers at the snow and ice. Here I am two days before Christmas 2010, at an Asian fusion restaurant in Truro, having a lovely meal with blogging friend Angie:

[A carefree shot taken by Angie in late 2010]

Personally I think that by mid-2011 my physical appearance had undergone all the major changes it was going to achieve with hormones and genital surgery alone. Changes would continue, for years ahead, but from here on they would be subtle. So, at home on Christmas Day 2011, I was little altered and looked like this:

[A shot from late 2011]

And yesterday, at a friend's in Brighton, on New Years Day 2013, I looked like this, hardly any different from the previous year (except fatter):

[A shot from early 2013]

Oh dear, the inevitable big glass of wine. It seems to have become my signature accessory!

I think this little gallery of shots proves that anyone can hope for a massive improvement in their appearance over a number of years. You just have to get on hormones and be patient. If you are just starting hormone treatment, do take heart, and keep in mind that some people get more from it than I did, and sooner. But every pill or patch taken pushes the transformation ahead, and it never stops having an effect. I know someone who transitioned ten years ago, and she is living proof that hormonal changes go on and on in tiny little steps, building up all the time, and never stop. In her, the cumulative alteration is inspirational.

One day that person from 2007 will be completely left behind. Till then I have to live with his features showing in my face. He's definitely still there, even though smoothed off and blurred a bit. Never mind. I laugh off the heavy jowls, the big nose, and the piggy eyes, referring to the 'family face' that I'm actually quite proud of, much as you might speak of having a Habsburg Lip, or indeed the Melford Mouth.

My 'ambition' is to credibly be the sister I never had. Ironically this is already implied as an historical fact by the Birth Certificate record. On paper, it looks as if J--- and Lucy were twins!

Of course, the day will come when I'll be so old that nobody will care what I look like, so long as I'm a pleasant person, and good company. I think I can easily manage that.

Posted by Lucy Melford at 17:43

There were five comments:

1. Caroline 2 January 2013 19:16

It looks like time is unravaging you Lucy and greater happiness shines through...

2. Shirley Anne 3 January 2013 10:10

I couldn't have done this myself Lucy, parading my past in this way I mean. I can see the difference though!

Shirley Anne x

3. Lucy Melford 3 January 2013 13:21

Well Shirley Anne, I did say that not everyone can bear to show pictures from their old life. But I see my life as a continuum, and all parts of it are equally valid. They can all be examined. And we are only discussing outward appearance. The invisible inner person is much the more important person. The tragedy is that so many, so very many, look only a the surface and do not connect with the deeper person.


4. Angel 4 January 2013 00:44

I must say, the gentleman in that first photo was rather good-looking! It's kind of a pity that he is no longer around, but I totally understand why he isn't.

One thing I have noticed each time I have seen a photo series like this is that as transition progresses, the person smiles more and more... and you do look quite happy in your latest photo. That is what really matters.

5. Lucy Melford 4 January 2013 01:01

Thanks, Angel. I did get the occasional compliment, but was uncomfortable when it happened. Funny thing, I still can't handle compliments that well. Odd, that. I thought I'd stopped putting myself down, but no. I wonder if it's a common thing with trans people?


And here's one of the more positive and thoughtful comments about this post and the ‘female drinking’ post on the radical feminist blog GenderTrender - which reassured me that at least my current look was OK:

EqualRightsAndProtection Says:

January 4, 2013 at 4:56 am

Lucy, dear, you make a very handsome man. And you’re flirty in dresses. Please do not condemn yourself: your nose is not too big for your face, your eyes are very fine, and you aren’t jowly at all. Please stop hating
your body.

The post that you put on your blog about drinking was all in good fun, but I hope that you can understand that it is sexist to portray one style of drinking to women (dainty, stem-holding, sipping) and another to men
(hearty, planted, draughty gulps). It’s very damaging to point to one set of actions and proclaim that they are female and another set that are male. It enforces stereotypes that are keeping women in chains around the world. I don’t believe in gender. I’m not a very gendered person, actually, but I’m happy in my place in the world. I wish that you find that place for yourself.

I was 12 years old when schools in the USA started letting girls wear pants. We were only allowed to wear them from Thanksgiving (last week in November) to Easter. And they had to be corduroys or slacks. No jeans allowed. I remember the uproar in our church that the girls and women were going to be usurping men’s place. That we’d want to tell them what to do. There might have been some truth to that.
It was the beginning of breaking the idea that women were inferior. No one blinks an eye when a woman wears pants now. But we have such a long way to go. These gendered stereotypes are not helping that path. And the transgender community celebrates them and enforces them on us. They’re a particularly joyless angry lot that want to eradicate gay men in drag or anyone else who doesn’t want to transition to womenhood wearing a dress.

And they keep wishing that all of us radfem women would die in a fire. It’s really apparent when you read some of the transgender support forums. You know what happens when you are hated? You begin seeing the hater in a lens of that reflected hate. And positions harden. And no dialogue can happen. RadFem 2012 in England. Dyke March with …no real dykes. Butch Voices without any born women whatsoever. (oh wait, one workshop for crones. Because they want us to die soon.) Michfest with deranged boys in dresses carrying spears outside the gates. Really, it sounds like a bad conspiracy novel. But these people are vicious.

I’ve heard transgender men say that wearing women’s clothes helps them relax. Personally, I don’t see how anyone can relax in pantyhose. They’re quite binding, don’t seem to want to straighten out to fit your bends, and always seem to end up with holes somewhere no matter how careful I am. I think they were originally designed by a guard in a mental ward looking for a new straightjacket to keep the patients from running. It’s obviously not my cup of tea, but you are quite welcome to whatever you need to make yourself happy. (To a point.)

I will admit to inner conflict on deciding whether someone gets a female pronoun or not. I don’t think transgender MtF are women –they’re simply men with a lot of cosmetic surgery and a need for clothing that brands them as women to the world. If I tattooed my face brown, I would not be black. Neither can men really be women. Though I’m not as strict about using only male pronouns to refer to transgender MtF because….well, I’m not really sure. I guess I feel like it harms no one to use a state of address that the other party likes. But do I feel you are female? Not really. I think of you as yourself. Which is a better frame of reference. If I feel that actions have threatened women, I refer to that trans as male.

I have two bright lines that I will fight and die for: 1) No opposite sex genitalia in nudity areas and 2) No drugs or surgery for children. Women should have the right to be comfortable in women’s spaces without feeling the pressure of a penis. Men shouldn’t have to be confronted with a vagina. And children should be free to grow up supported and loved for who they are.

I’ve talked too much here, but honestly, I can’t condemn you. You’re actually one of the few MtF transgenders that doesn’t seem to howl for blood in a fire. Or sound utterly bonkers. That second picture in your transition series really tears at my heart. You look so sad. And I see sadness in many of those photos. I wish you happy, Lucy. I hope that you see the person in those photos and not just the clothes or flaws.

... It’s not your appearance. Your appearance is fine. I really can’t help feeling sympathetic to your dilemma because I spend my life trying to heal internal pain. But I can’t support it. It isn’t real, and it damages everything I try to promote for my own daughter.

Post-mortem in 2014
I am glad that by republishing this post I can bring EqualRightsAndProtection's comment into the light again. Not for her nice words, but because it reads so sincerely to me, and although she hasn't accepted my own self-image, I respect her views on it. So although the post itself was ill-conceived, it has elicited a comment I do value very much. It gives me some insight that I might not otherwise have obtained.

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Lucy Melford