The Trouble With Regeneration

This comes in response to a comment left on my last post, which got me thinking:

“Maybe what is being missed, (again amidst the rhetoric), is that the vast majority of those who “old guard/privileged” people who successfully struggled through the change and fully assimilated, no longer identify as trans.”

I take this to mean that the “old guard” of transitioned transpeople now fully and successfully identify as their acquired genders, and so feel justified in revoking any former allegiance they had to transpeople still undergoing transition. I have heard that before, with people (who shall remain nameless) confiding in me their disillusionment with the trans scene and how they can’t wait to leave it and just live as their acquired gender. Some of them are seeing the situation through rose-tinted glasses, I fear, but others no doubt have that option, if they prefer it.

And myself? If I could fully assimilate as a woman, without the “trans” prefix? I can certainly see the temptation, and I would be lying through my teeth if I claimed I feel no sadness over the great unlikelihood of it.

I see changes in myself, and I am generally pleased with them, but I know I do not pass, and the old “T” has done its groundwork too well. Even when I have fried every follicle and taken my precious blue pills for years, I will still be well over average female height, with a bulging Adam’s apple, a jutting brow ridge, broad shoulders, a bony nose, and a square chin. Any one or two of these disadvantages I might get away with, but the whole ensemble is just too much of a give-away. My regeneration will only leave me looking like a different kind of alien.

Which raises the valid question of why I want it so much, but I at least know that the further I proceed with this – even with the merely social aspects of transition – people relate to me differently, even if they do not and will probably never relate to me exactly as they would to a genetic woman. All limitations aside, I will take that as far as I can. Of course, it is also hugely personal, and beyond what I can call rational. I used to hate my face and body. I no longer hate them, even if I remain greatly dissatisfied with them. I feel more confident, if not perfectly confident, in projecting the sort of image that speaks truly of my inner being, rather than a socially-safe option that is no more than a suit of armour. Even if physical transition was not an option – if I was refused it, or NHS cutbacks saw it on the scrapheap with life-prolonging cancer treatments (sadly true) – I would still have to pursue my social transition. Living in hiding, even in plain sight, is something no-one should be expected to do.

I can live with being a visible transwoman, which is as fortunate as it is destined. It is a destiny that faces most who do not transition early, and cannot afford expensive plastic surgery. Whether or not they transition fully, the prospect of full assimilation is unlikely for them, unless that is societal attitudes to gender and appearance change considerably… which would be no bad thing, but would certainly require much activism and education.

I do sympathise with my trans sisters and brothers who have transitioned and cut loose from the trans scene, locally and online, or those who intend to. If I could “go stealth” and fully assimilate, I would certainly struggle to resist the temptation to join them, but It is not a realistic option for me, and my conscience tells me that may be for for the best. I have been placed exactly where I need to be.


17 thoughts on “The Trouble With Regeneration

  1. As a non-binary gender identified person I have embraced the fact that I will never pass. I do, so, get the attraction. All of us want to be accepted without explaination. I would love to walk out the door with knee high socks, skirt and a t-shirt and just be accepted as “nirmal,” alas, that is not to be. I can choose to be less obvious but I will never be mistaken for ordinary. So I embrace my otherness and hope the world slowly comes ’round to my way of seeing the world!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My thoughts exactly, but by heck does normal feel good… The only time I felt it this year was at Pride Cymru. Even at The Gathering I occasionally get misgendered. It is as well Pride does not have a permanent site in this city or I would just buy a big tent and live in their compound for good.

      That it’s come to this: I am actually attracted to the idea of creating a permanent ghetto for genderqueer aliens such as myself to dwell in. We can surely do better than this as a society, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I hope that as acceptance gradually grows, there will also be more recognition of the beauty of people who don’t fit neatly into fixed ideas about gender. Like maybe someone can be gorgeous in women’s clothing and with an Adam’s apple. I wonder how that will take?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I participated a little in the conversation your last post provoked. I was on an intercity five hour train ride with my kids and reading on my phone with reception dropping in and out, so I only followed some of it, but I kept thinking about it over the next day and a half. I mentioned it while walking with a trans friend yesterday, whom transitioned in ’96 and had also never come across the term transmedicalist. We both thought your title, ‘Transier than thou” (as I think it was) summed up a lot of this bother. Personally I feel fury when feminists like Sheila Jeffreys get to decide who’s in the women’s club and who’s not (and I’m probably not in the club even though I have the requisite biological parts because I’m too heterosexual).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had heard there were a few Radfems who think the LGBTQ+ movement ought to be defined by sexual preference, though I had hoped it was just an ugly rumour. Unfortunately, my friends at the Gathering have informed me (who am naive to the scene) that the LGBTQ+ community is just as capable or nurturing utter bigots as any.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sorry, still on my phone and pressed ‘send’ in the middle of this. So, the trans exclusionary thing horrifies me.
    There’s probably a more nuanced way to put this – but basically, transgender and gender diverse folks need to stick together or risk further marginalisation (and access to support). As a feminist, I find standpoint epistemology guides me. Basically, I think, it boils down to knowing yourself and your identity thoroughly and acknowledging the lens through which you know the world. No one else has the right to interrogate the authenticity of your identity. Ergo, you are transgender if you say you are – and the saying should be honoured and respected.

    Re ‘passing’ and living in stealth. I am a heterosexual, cisgender, white woman. My little son (eleven next month) is biologically female. He doesn’t even really like the word transgender, although he recognises that this is what he is. He wants to be known full time as a heterosexual little boy, no different from other little boys. Needless to say, I have a lot of worries about how this will unfold over the next couple of years. But, a few thoughts from this perspective:
    I think, maybe, that being stealth means that you get some time off from being conscious about being different, about things not feeling integrated. I’ve only been grappling with transgender issues for a year, and I’m not transgender myself, and it’s very overwhelming and tiring. It’s like a hyper consciousness – I see myself through a gendered lens, other people, and the whole of society. But, I can take this off. I can rest.
    I once dyed my hair purple (about 20 years ago, before it was as much a thing). I loved it but I got sick of people looking at me. I just wanted to blend in when I was out so that I could engage with things that weren’t to do with my appearance. Not an option for many transgender people.
    So, in truth, I don’t envy you. However, Dr Eleanor, if I was sitting opposite you, you would actually do me & all heteronormative people an honour, just by being you and being there. It sounds like your very body holds up a mirror to how constructed normative ideas of gender are. The world is more lovely and varied than a lot of people, myself included, choose to
    see a lot of the time. Because, it’s hard work to keep seeing, if you don’t have to.
    I hope that makes some sense. I don’t know if it’s any consolation.
    But it’s my perspective, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Of course, and I would live in stealth if I could. Who could blame anyone from wanting to take time out from being the weirdo? Your son will most likely have that option, though he will of course have to be extraordinarily patient to get there…

      I have no issue with people who can go stealth doing so, but I far more admire those people who could, yet owned their transgender identity regardless (Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, and more locally Jacqui Gavin and Jamie Eagle). How one who has experienced gender dysphoria and fought through it successfully feels comfortable sneering at those who are still painfully navigating that path amazes me. Yes, there are stupid and cruel activists on both sides, and then there are just people fumbling in pain and confusion with their own strange identity. The “old guard” could be trying to help them find their way, as many of them indeed are. Come to think of it, I should probably spend more time talking to those ones…

      Thank you so much for your support. 🙂 A very pertinent reminder with the subject at hand that feminism and transgenderism are not irreconcilable.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I suspect I’m going to make a bit of a muddle of this but I do find these debates interesting (as well as exasperating).
    I’d never heard of Miranda Yardley, but was surprised to read her refer to herself as a ‘transexual’ and to hear that she gives presentations with Julie Bindel, whose work I do know. (An aside, for a journalist, Ms Yardley’s grammar is terrible. I’ll try not to point score elsewhere ;-)).
    There are several arguments made by the Rad Fems that certainly provoke me – I think they’re worthy of consideration and I try to give them due consideration.
    Firstly, particularly for children, I can see how medical transitioning to the other end of the binary can seem like a very conservative move. To talk about kids for a minute: many kids are gender fluid, for sure. Early transition can also be assimilation. As you rightly point out, my son, if he transitions early, will have a much better possibility of ‘passing’. The thing I always wonder about in all of Sheila Jeffrey’s comparisons with ‘eugenics’ and with Ms Yardley’s submission, is why some people (in this case, the Rad Fems) believe they have licence to pronounce who and what others are and what they should want. Whether someone is five or fifty, if they profess to suffer gender dysphoria, why do others, from a theoretical basis, get to decide that it’s not valid (and doesn’t need or deserve treatment)?
    I understand, given the number of people that claim that dysphoria is either somehow “not real” (whatever that means) and/or an illness, why others are keen to prove that transgender brains are distinct, and how gender variations occur in utero. While I think biological determinism will never satisfy all the questions, I’ve read enough research to think that a biological basis for trangenderism will be located in my lifetime.
    Until then, in my opinion, the best practice is to trust that people are who they say they are – and to tell those denying treatment to f@%$ off.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can understand, to an extent, the fears of those who write against “childhood transitions”, though in practice (as I understand it) the most that will ever happen is that hormone blockers will be prescribed to temporarily delay puberty, and that only if the psychiatrists are confident that the dysphoria is a persistent thing. Sometimes, though, it all tips over into conspiracy theory dimensions about the eugenic erasure of gay youth, and transition being viewed as conversion therapy by the back door, as if being transgender was somehow more acceptable to conservatives… which it most definitely is not.


    • Being a female Doctor Who would be my ultimate fantasy, in case my current avatar didn’t make that obvious enough. 😉 And yes, they should. A female Master is rather a lame cop-out after all these years of evading the possibility.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks, Questioning. I didn’t see your response for a few days but it helps me, at least, to ‘see’ you and understand what you’re saying a bit better. It strikes me that neither Dr Eleanor, nor you, nor me like all of these trans divisions, albeit for different reasons . . .
    I just wrote a longer response to you and then lost it. It’s after midnight here and I’m tired. I don’t know what I think, just a bit confused and weary, really. I hope Eleanor won’t mind me linking a post I just wrote which explains some of my involvement in these questions a bit more
    I only discovered 4thwavenow yesterday. I’m interested in her analysis of those dreadful suicide stats: I also hate the way that they’re held over parents’ heads. Otherwise, I found her tone a bit shrill. I’m not interested taking stances, as such, only in supporting my son and others to find their way.
    What do I think? I think I don’t know what it’s like to be you. I don’t know what it’s like to be Eleanor. I read Eleanor’s wish to pass (and perhaps to have surgery) as valid, as yours was (and is). I would love it if my son was happy being a boy with a vagina, and if Eleanor was happy being a willowy young woman with an Adams apple, but it is clear that neither of them are happy with their bodies as they are. I accept what they tell me.
    I was taught by those of your generation that gender was a social construct. Clearly, many aspects of our cultures are powerfully and arbitrarily gendered. it also appears that some aspects of gender identity are innate. People often quote the John Money research as evidence of this: in my house, I’ve raised three biological females but only one is transgender. It is not just about the way that we (and society at large) are bringing up this child.
    The thing I still don’t quite get is why you would fully transition yourself but see that as a less valid desire for Dr Eleanor or Lila (the trans girl in the States – is that who you’re referring to as the wig wearing female?).
    In sum, I try to accept the identity that people give themselves. And I don’t understand all the bathroom debacles (and I have been through that one with my son). People need to pee. The end.
    I just aim to be kind, and to listen. I’m grateful to you for taking the time to write the post above. Thank you again.

    Liked by 1 person

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