Until now, this blog has been autobiographical reminiscence with occasional digressions into other matters. For a while at least, I am going to swap things around a little bit. For various reasons, it feels like the right thing to do.
Transitioning made me think a lot about my early life. Transition changes many things, although not necessarily instantly. You embark on a new way of being in the world, with huge social, practical, intellectual and emotional consequences. Many, but not all people also embark on a range of medical interventions which bring about bodily and psychological changes. As a result of all that I have found myself preoccupied with two eras – the present and my early life.
Because I have been thinking about my early life a lot, it has been comparitively easy to write quickly and spontaneously about it, from my childhood up until the period I have just been chronicling. The following period, which in career terms begins at the former Polytechnic/University of North London, is a time I haven’t thought about in detail for years, so in one way my blogging productivity has brought me to a period I need to digest a bit more, and possibly write about in a different way.
In addition, there are a lot of current issues I feel like writing about. It’s almost fifteen months since I transitioned and life feels remarkably different to how it felt pre-transition, in almost completely positive ways. Also transition at fifteen months feels hugely different from transition at one or two months. Change has become a constant. Some of this change is very personal, and there are aspects of that which I don’t feel ready to write about. But I am also struck by how, for me, the personal has become political. By that I don’t mean I’m some sort of amazing political thinker. I’m not. I’m probably quite naïve in some ways. And the older I get, the one thing I do learn is the depth of my ignorance, and how much more there is to learn about the world. However I am very struck by how in my twenties and thirties I had political views, but they were quite intellectual and detached. A couple of years of experiencing how the medical and political establishments regard trans people, and how inadequate, and often damaging, their response to us is even though, in many cases, it is well intentioned, changes your political views somewhat. I have always been part of a minority, but it is only by becoming visible that the consequences of my minority status have become clear to me.
Gender variance and intersex are areas not well understood by the mass media, so sometimes it is difficult to get a clear message out past those particular gatekeepers. I was lucky enough to write for The Guardian earlier in the year, and I will keep plugging away at writing for other audiences. I have a couple of public utterances appearing in other locations in the next few months, so I’ll keep you posted about them.
Ultimately though, I feel that there are a lot of issues out there which are contentious or not well-understood by the public at large, and sometimes by trans people ourselves. I am thinking a lot about some of these issues, and feel just now that I want to write about some of them.
One of the things that helps me to do so is that I transitioned so visibly where I live, and where I work. I therefore don’t feel I need to hide my past, although neither do I wish to be defined by it. There’s an interesting little tension there between my own sense of my gender identity and the fact that I am happy to be open about my history where necessary. For example, I have reached a point, after some struggle, where I feel confident to assert my identity as a woman but also to assert that I am as genuinely female as any other woman, even though I was identified as male at birth, brought up as male and lived socially as male until very recently. I realize some people will struggle to accept I am a real woman, and that is something I would like to write about, and debate about. And my sense of my own identity doesn’t impact on my understanding of, and affirmation of those who identify elsewhere on the gender spectrum. Not all of us identify as men or women. Some identify elsewhere on the spectrum, which is actually way cool and takes a lot of courage and self-worth.
So I feel like there’s a lot of stuff I want to write about. I have struggled with my own sense of self and it has taken me a long time to start to feel at ease with myself. Part of that is the way society treats people like me – as shameful oddities who need to be hidden, or as people suffering from medical “defects” which need to be “corrected”. As a child, and then on later occasions, my body was abused by surgeons who thought they knew best, and I bear the physical and mental scars to this day. Even so, I am luckier than many. Some are even more ill-treated than I was, and some don’t survive the experience.
So we all need to understand more, and respect each other more, and value each other. We are normal people, just like you – we are not second-class citizens. But there’s a lot you don’t know about us. I am going to add my voice, for what it’s worth, to an increasing number of voices who are sharing how complex, wonderful and varied trans people’s lives are, and who are trying to combat prejudice and division in society, and reach out across artificial, unnecessary and prejudicial boundaries. Hope it doesn’t sound like too much of a rant – and if you want to comment, argue, take issue … please do!