22

Jumping Hoops – A Rant on the Welsh NHS

Today, as I learn that my legal caseworker is leaving her job and my MP can’t be of any help in local health issues, I am far from being in the best frame of mind…

Let’s quickly recap… Early last year, my husband and I went to our GP to finally pursue gender reassignment, as is our right under NHS protocols. However, the NHS in Wales is more restrictive than its English counterpart, as the GP correctly informed us, and accordingly set up the various hoops that we would need to jump through to receive treatment. These were…

Referral to the community mental health team for assessment.

Referral from the CMHT back to the GP.

Application to the “gatekeepers” (nothing to do with Ghostbusters) for funding.

Once funding obtained, referral to the West London Mental Health Gender Identity Clinic – the only one available to Welsh NHS patients.

A year’s waiting from said referral to our appointment times.

First GIC appointment.

…and that is as far as we have got, at present. However, our first appointments did go very well, and as far as London goes we have no complaints. The clinicians we saw were sympathetic and eager to help, and in my case even provided me with a prescription for HRT to be handed to my GP. Hormone therapy is, of course, an essential first stage of transition, and one that patients in England (and even some Welsh health boards) can obtain even before their first appointments, to dissuade them from self-medicating on internet-bought hormones… which I have been doing for over a year now. My GP, unfortunately, said that they could only help with authorisation from London, so you can imagine how pleased I was to finally obtain some.

Having imagined that, you can now imagine how displeased and shocked I was when my GP practice – a Cardiff Bay-based clinic that had been recommended to me as trans-friendly – still refused treatment. Their latest justification is that there are proposed changes to the Welsh gender identity care pathway, and they want those implemented before taking the responsibility. They assured me it would not take long.

About a week ago I went to a trans information meeting hosted by a local NHS official, who spoke on these proposals and told me they may take up to three years to implement… though she did also tell me – as one might expect – that my GP is making pathetic excuses, and has a responsibility to treat their current patients according to the existing gender care provisions. Also, much to my surprise, she informed me that our GP had lied when they claimed there was no provision for speech therapy under the Welsh system – though both Cal and I had expressed a great interest in it.

She even told me she would be in touch to help me challenge this state of affairs… but unfortunately was not. I have since told my caseworker and my MP – to the sad lack of effect stated above – and contacted my Welsh Assembly Member, but have heard nothing back. That leaves me, at present, at a bit of an impasse, where all I can think to do for now is express my dismay and disgust that things have had to come to this. Unless the local health authorities will support Cal and I in our transition, there is nothing much London can do all by itself (monitored HRT being, as far as I know, still being a prerequisite for surgery, and Cal not being able to self-medicate in any case – testosterone being far too dangerous to take without professional help).

Our worst fear, though, is that they are playing for time, hoping that if they can stall us for long enough then inevitable NHS cuts will impact on the whole gender care service and they will simply be able to deny us care and get us off their monthly budget for good. Paranoid of us? Possibly, but that practice hasn’t exactly been enthusiastic or sensitive in helping us. I recall asking them if they could prescribe Vaniqa hair reduction cream just after my GIC referral… only to be answered with a blunt “we can’t give that to men.”

Though, to be fair, one doctor down that practice has been sympathetic to us both, though the last thing he said to me was “the squeaky wheel is the one that gets oiled.” Cryptic at the time, but in retrospect we both think he was giving us broad hints that the system is not our friend, and we will have to fight tooth and nail if we want to see this through. Not something I excel in, but I guess it can’t hurt to learn.

If anyone has any suggestions for our next manoeuvre in this battle, please pass them along. I could use some fresh perspectives after today’s disillusionments.

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22

Year of Politics and Procrastination…

I always suspected this blog would tail off rather than go out with a bang, alas, but although I must take part of the blame for that in a sense it has been unavoidable: in the early stages of transition one’s mood was of constant panic, and it was a matter of priority to keep very busy and pro-active to have some sense of control over it all. Additionally, things seemed to move more quickly. Now, nineteen months down the line, things seem a lot slower-paced, although by no means resolved. Cal and I are both now officially patients at the London GIC (Charing Cross) and technically on the gender care pathway, although our GP practice continues to refuse us any interim care and I am still self-medicating HRT based on rough figures which have so far not killed me, touch wood (As ever, this practice does not come recommended). However, a trans social meeting I attended recently gave me to understand that we should be receiving care from our GP by now, so a complaints procedure is looking increasingly like our best option. It’s stress we could live without, of course, but we knew this would be a struggle.

It might help, of course, if we were transitioning at a less volatile time, but it seems whenever we glance at social media these days there is a new reason to fear the course of global events and what this may mean for us as LGBT+ people, as well as NHS patients: the Orlando massacre, the rise of the right and hatecrime, Brexit, the apparent disintegration of the Labour Party, Donald Trump, etc. Being introverts never made so much sense… Unfortunately, I now find myself as an introvert at a loose end, having finished the novel I was working on and lacking inspiration for a project to follow it. I am hoping to start some voluntary work later this month with a Cardiff LGBT charity, and Pride Cymru is coming around again (13th of August), while Cal is hoping to upgrade his working hours to full time. Modelling, alas, has fallen off considerably – not that I ever expected it to go huge – though I do have a few shots from a training shoot I did a couple of weeks ago at Mark Cleghorn Studios (Barry, Vale of Glamorgan), based around the “Little Black Dress” theme:

Not that I would say I am remotely satisfied with how I look, nor ever likely to be, but it was nice to be asked. Validation has been in short supply of late, for us both.

Thus, we continue to support each other, and I really can’t imagine how I would have got through this without Cal, but the motivation and stamina to be “out and proud” is difficult for us both to maintain, even on mere social media, so my apologies for my very inconsistent presence this year. I hope I will feel more in the mood for visibility in the future. I know invisibility does not serve my community very well. It can feel awfully stress-relieving, though, but I will seek a healthy balance.

14

GIC – First Assessment

Apologies for the delay, but things haven’t stopped moving since I returned from London last Friday. As for the reason I was there at all… well, it certainly took a long time (albeit 11 months rather than the dreaded 13) and there were plenty of times I dreaded it wouldn’t happen at all, or would be cancelled and rescheduled time and time again, but in the end it all went to plan.

The Gender Identity Clinic was well hidden away in an unassuming part of west London, and I shall respect their secrecy and be no more specific. Suffice it to say it was over a shop, the purpose of the building was unstated, and that one had to be rung in via a door intercom. It may well be that they fear the potential of harassment to their patients, although as I had lunch nearby and saw various transpeople exit and enter the building, it occurred to me that some locals had surely noticed over the years. Nevertheless, I had no trouble in the area. I never tend to experience transphobia in London, would that it was not so expensive to live there.

I made sure to travel very early, just in case there were any transport delays and also in case I had not correctly estimated the time to reach the clinic, but in the end had about a two-hour wait. I had a meal, a quick walk, and pestered the hubby on the phone, which whiled the time away and kept my morale up until I actually pressed that door buzzer. Then, I had another 45-minute wait within the clinic itself, along with various other nervous-looking transwomen, as they were running late. I began to have a paranoid fear that someone would only come at me with an apology that the clinician was for some reason unavailable and I would need to reschedule, when thankfully the gentleman himself emerged from an office and invited me in. I smiled, took a deep breath, and followed.

The meeting lasted a further 45 minutes and covered all expected bases, repeating much of what I had been asked during the community mental health assessment in Cardiff last year: how long had I known, was I inclined to suicide or self-harm, how was puberty for me, medical history, work and social circumstances, etc. The clinician acknowledged that much of this would be repetition, owing to that extra hurdle one is expected to pass within the Welsh NHS. I was rather pleased he did not seem to consider this fair.

His final assessment, at any rate, was the most morale-building experience I have had in ages: I seemed, evidently, to be a totally straightforward case, and he had no issues in referring me onwards to discuss surgery, and also in writing to my GP to, at last, authorise HRT and get me off my self-medication. This latter habit of mine, which I had been warned could stand in my way, thankfully did not become an issue. He acknowledged it was not the best thing one could do, but also one that many people and especially those in the Welsh NHS turned to for lack of GP support, and I had at least attempted to do so in an informed way (A general hint I might give, to anyone considering that option, is always to seek as much information within one’s community and support groups as possible).

He also said, to my immense gratitude, that in his opinion I had successfully completed my social transition. While I can imagine a few gender-critical feminists balking at the notion of a male clinician supplying that seal of approval, at all events hearing it from him was reassuring, as it always is when I meet someone who only sees me as Eleanor. There are days when feel I could happily enact my transition 1970s-style, tear up all roots, move among strangers, and start life afresh… only the hubby still loves Cardiff. Well, I could probably do most of that that here. It’s a big city, though a new job will still be essential, hopefully sooner rather than later.

So, my next step is to visit my GP today bearing the clinician’s written authorisation, which will hopefully soon have me started on the first true stage of my medical transition (Anti-androgen injections, and continuation of my regular estradiol doses, but medically supervised). As for surgery… my second assessment will be in February. Another test of patience, but at least now I know I am on track, I no longer have anything to prove, and I can, in a way I did not quite feel free to before, finally embrace the fact of being a woman, being myself, instead of being cursed with that nagging sense of anxiety, that fear of being disbelieved, deemed as delusional or perverted, and told for my own sake I should backtrack and reconsider my options.

There is no going back now, and I could not be more delighted.


P.S. Thank you to all my followers here who have supported me through this. Your encouragement has done a great deal to keep me on track, and I only hope I have managed to be a little entertaining for my part. xxx

20

End of Act I

I find myself lacking a proper theme or any real news, indeed, but lest this blog be facing its permanent wind-down at any time I would rather it did not vanish without explanation.

Not that this is necessarily the case, but I think it may have a long hiatus, at least. Its purpose was always to give me a sense of progress during my transition, but of late that sense has been very elusive. The NHS has been silent, my self-prescribed meds are having little discernible effect (other than to give me very flaky nails), and after twenty hours of electrolysis I could probably still grow a full bushy beard if I had a mind to it. Oh, and my Facebook feed keeps chucking up articles on detransitioning, of all things. Sometimes it almost seems as if the universe is trying to send me a very unwelcome message…

Given the little progress I have made, If I stopped this now I could probably resume my former life in fairly short order. Not a remotely appealing prospect, but the wiser course may be to impose a delay. For it seems I am faced with having to choose between trying to continue transition on my own terms, paying for treatments and medication and so forth, or investing the money into a college course instead and putting my DIY transition “on hold.” Not an easy decision. Work has been grim of late, with some embarrassing episodes of anxiety to liven the tedium. Finding a job better suited to me will be no easy task – introverted transwomen with useless PhDs and four years’ work history of sorting mail (and not much else) are only of so much use in a modern workforce – so further study would be highly advisable if I don’t want to be stuck there the rest of my life. But ending my ongoing transition-related expenses would be a hard sacrifice to make.

In the interests of rebuilding my morale and clearing my head, I am planning to spend much less time on the internet. I’ll keep a fairly regular check on my email, so please feel free to contact me, but social media and blogging will be joining wine on my Lenten abstinence list. Hopefully this will also give me the impetus to start writing again, which also raises my spirits (as long as I am not writing about trans topics). Hopefully this will not be the end, so much as it is just a rather downbeat close to Act I…

3

Letting the Side Down

[Previous post redacted, due to having become stupidly redundant…]

Originally on this blog, I posted some questions to the deep ecology group Deep Green Resistance, just in case tags and keywords actually work and they felt like dropping by… which, unamazingly, they didn’t. I have since followed the rational, nay obvious course and just taken my answers from the extensive FAQs on their website… duh, or words to that effect. Contrary to popular conception, I will at least say that the tone of DGR’s site is not as virulently transphobic as is often reputed would suggest, but it is still best to assume TRIGGER WARNINGS if you decide to take a look there.

Going back a little way… I had for some time been taking an interest in the Radical Feminism movement. Some called that masochistic and pointless of me, but I begged to disagree, as I had encountered a willingness to engage and compromise from the webmaster at Socialessentialism blog. It was through that blog I stumbled upon the Deep Green Resistance presentation “The End of Gender: Revolution, Not Reform” (Speaker: Rachel Ivey), which disturbed me greatly: not for any blatant transphobia, as such, but for the linking of the idea “revolution” with the arguably necessary, and total elimination of gender – and thus transgenderism – as a concept. Call me paranoid (some already have) but historical revolutions based on the uprooting of unwanted ideas / belief systems have had a tendency to make life uncomfortable, intolerable, or very short for those people unable or unwilling to relinquish those ideas. Since Rachel Ivey described DGR as “a group advocating the forcible dismantling of civilization” I supposed she meant “revolution” in its literal sense, and such movements rarely occur without collateral damage. With great trepidation, I paid their site a visit…

Having now got the lowdown on their FAQs, I will at least admit that they are frank about the human cost of their revolution, but trans people would certainly not be the only sufferers: in answering a question about the likely effects of their proposed mass sabotage of civilisation, their leader Derrick Jensen admits “No matter what you do, your hands will be blood red,” though he goes on to state that since he is seriously ill and his own life is dependent on manufactured medicine, he would be one of the first victims of the social collapse. That is definitely putting his money where his mouth is…

And why is all of this carnage necessary? Because civilisation, in DGR’s view, is “irredeemable”, and any passive participation in society, however seemingly ethical, merely contributes to the unsustainable atrocity that is modern high-tech society. Which brings us to their perspective on transgender issues… Simply put, DGR endorse the view of Radical Feminism that gender is an artificial system of control designed to shoehorn biological males and females (who would otherwise have no binary behaviour and expression norms) into the respective roles of abuser and abused, to facilitate the patriarchal-led abuse of the planet in general.

Some of their views ring true. It takes little enough thought to come up with a myriad of sickening examples of misogynistic abuse, historical and present-day. Some of DGR’s views, however, smack of conspiracy theory, and do their thesis no favours. Their insinuation that ‘”gender dysphoria”‘ (extra inverted commas theirs) does not even exist, for one thing, chimes false with my partner, with myself, and with quite a lot of our social network. Their further statement that GD is a eugenics-related ploy to bring about “the medical erasure of gay and lesbian youth” is worthy of David Icke, and begs the question of why the evil powers that be did not just stick with the effective if less convoluted methods of criminalising and mentally sectioning gay people, if that was their priority.

DGR’s insistence that they are not a transphobic group is probably sincere, since trans-denialism is an arguably necessary concomitant of their rigidly anti-genderist stance. That assertion, however, rings pretty hollow in the face of their evident disgust of “people who describe themselves as trans”, however, and their indifference towards the very real issue of transphobic violence. The site author applauds male-bodied people who “fail at masculinity” and states that this is a good thing, but then also states that any harm they suffer as a result is their own problem. This is not so much putting their money where their mouth is… Their statement that women have a right to define their own safe spaces and to exclude trans people if they so wish, I do accept as a matter of sensitivity. This is the policy in my own workplace, and in any case I have never wanted to be anywhere I was unwelcome, though I do wonder why DGR could not also allow safe spaces for gender non-conforming people, agree to differ on a few points, and thus increase their pool of potential allies (though, arguably, they are keen not to antagonise their already large and lucrative radfem membership pool. Cynical but practical, if true).

One might allow that DGR is not transphobic in the sense that it is not actively campaigning (as far as I am aware) for transpeople’s legal rights and access to care to be curtailed… except of course insofar as they wish to collapse the entire medical infrastructure of society, but we can assume that to be a fairly slight risk for the forseeable. Nevertheless, they are proudly insensitive in their attitudes to trans issues in general and misgendering in particular, though I suppose a hardcore anarcho-primitivist movement can only afford to be so touchy-feely. One would, however, have thought they could allow gender to be an issue of belief for those people to whom it is an important part of their identity, just as long as they are not harming anyone, and thus on a par with religion. I have no idea how accepting and respectful DGR is of religious belief within its movement,* but I offer the suggestion that a modicum of tolerance in general is a good way not to alienate potential allies. Particularly since the FAQ author acknowledges that trans people do actually undermine rather than support the patriarchy by their very existence: “Women who resist femininity and men who refuse masculinity are living proof that patriarchy is not inevitable.” Bit of unnecessary implied misgendering there, but you get the idea.

Since I can’t actually see myself joining DGR, and since they have no ambition to take over the organs of state, but rather throw as many spanners into their works as possible, one might well ask is any of this remotely important to me? Well I will admit to being troubled over one thing: the implication that gender transitioning is an attempt to fit in, rather than to stand out defiantly in society, the latter course being conducive to change. While I, like many late-transitioners, am aware that I have very little chance of fitting in perfectly even with full surgery, I can’t deny that I would love the option to be able to “go stealth” completely, if only…

My dysphoria is a powerful feeling when it kicks in, as it often does, and it might be worth Derrick Jensen and co. taking note that the feeling it gives me is not of having “failed masculinity” but of doing perfectly well at masculinity and hating every bloody minute of it. Gods, how I then wish I was way more effeminate than I am, less muscular, less tall. I can dress and make up to the nines with little fear of being attacked, but not because I “pass”: just because not many random thugs like to try attacking a tall, muscular, and often very annoyed-looking male-bodied figure, however much eyeshadow it happens to be wearing… I could fit in perfectly well as a man if I so desired to, but the desire has never come to me. I have tried absenting myself from society altogether, and been much happier as a result, but hermitude is no longer an option. At least not for the short term, though my partner and I are saving and researching to build a tiny home or eco-pod in the French countryside one of these days. That at least should better prepare us in case DGR’s doomsday scenario is more accurate than I would like to believe it…

The politics of gender dysphoria are apt to lead me around in circles, and not make this blog an overly encouraging place, I rather fear, so in conclusion… I will have to admit to being one confused and morally troubled trans lady. I had braced myself to take no end of flak from the political right, but the unexpected surge of hostility from the left flank took me completely by surprise. Suddenly finding myself in the black books of both feminists and environmentalists has been a sobering experience for a lifelong socialist, though on that note Soviet Russia was scarcely embracing of LGBT rights.** Nevertheless I can’t see myself ever embracing the title of “man” however much DGR or anyone else foists it upon me, and if I am offered any means of making myself better resemble a physical female, I can’t see myself refusing it. On the other hand, if I am denied any treatment or surgery at all, I can see a long and frustrating future involving tons of concealer, padding, wide-brimmed hats, neck scarves, and me still not embracing the title of man… which I guess would actually please Derrick Jensen, as it would certainly rule out fitting in.

But fitting in is improbable anyway. I will always cut a bizarre figure, much more likely to offend the stalwarts of the patriarchy rather than please them, and I confess that prospect does not entirely please me. Having said that, I am not doing any of this out of any desire to fetishise submission and weakness. The women of my own family have given me powerful examples to follow, and I’d be loath to let the side down…

_________________________________

* As of 2/4/15, I have discovered how tolerant DGR is of religion within its movement…

The following comments were left by Lonesomeyoghurt, posted in reply to mine at https://sheisrevolutionarilysuicidal.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/i-was-born-a-baby-not-a-boy-sex-gender-and-trans-liberation which is actually a really inspiring article. The comments have since been deleted, probably for not being overly sensitive to anyone…

“As a Deep Green Resistance member, I can tell you that we *would* refuse to cater to the misogynistic and abusive assumptions of Christianity or Islam just as much as we would refuse to cater to the same in trans ideology. Deep Green Resistance is an anti-civilization radical environmentalist organization, and for that reason Christianity and Islam are fundamentally opposed to our vision. That doesn’t mean we would bar all Christians and Muslims from joining, but we aren’t in the habit of pretending to ignore male supremacy to protect people’s feelings. In the same way, we’re not going to ignore the misogyny of trans ideology and label it a “freedom of belief” issue. We’re radicals, not liberals. We don’t think truth bends to individual opinions. […] It’s not about individual religious folks. It’s about the ideology. Individual Christians and Muslims can be great activists (my mother is a long-time socialist activist and an ordained pastor) but that doesn’t mean the ideology of those religions as social institutions are not odious. DGR is a radical feminist organization, and central to that is the belief that female biology exists and that the exploitation of female bodies forms the core of patriarchy. It is not “dogmatic” for us to reject an ideology that turns “woman” into an identity. Would it be “dogmatic” for a feminist organization to reject men’s rights activists? DGR does not take a position on quite a lot of things. We have vegetarians and meat eaters, atheists and spiritual folks, people with all manner of beliefs about science, medicine, lifestyle, and other individual choices. We are not dogmatic. But we all share a belief that gender must be abolished, not liberalized or made more comfortable for males. We’d rather have solidarity with women who name their oppression than open our ranks to men who are unwilling to break their identification with the gender system.”

At any rate, this should clear up any lingering doubt on the issue of whether or not DGR-US has a trans-exclusionary membership policy (It does). Some confusion may arise as the British DGR chapter is more liberal and nuanced in its statement. However, this is possibly only due to the fact that it is illegal under the terms of the Equality Act 2010 for clubs within the UK to have discriminatory membership policies. Without actually knowing the experience of a trans person in the UK who has tried joining DGR, it is hard to say how much this statement actually counts for:

“DGR UK does not profess to tell anyone what they are or are not. We believe that every individual has the right to survival on her/his own terms, and this includes trans-identifying individuals. DGR UK is sympathetic to the experiences of trans-identifying people who are also likely to have suffered in different ways as a result of living in a patriarchy. Trans-identifying people are welcome to become members of DGR UK. However, we would ask that they respect the need for women to have safe spaces free from male patriarchy at certain gatherings.”

Am I curious (or masochistic) enough to try attending a DGR seminar if they ever come to Cardiff? Probably…

** “Soviet legislation does not recognize so-called crimes against morality. Our laws proceed from the principle of protection of society and therefore countenance punishment only in those instances when juveniles and minors are the objects of homosexual interest … while recognizing the incorrectness of homosexual development … our society combines prophylactic and other therapeutic measures with all the necessary conditions for making the conflicts that afflict homosexuals as painless as possible and for resolving their typical estrangement from society within the collective.”

Sereisky, Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1930, p. 593

2

Forever the Acolyte…

So far, my circumstances have been so favourable that I have encountered no overt prejudice or discrimination since I came out as trans. I have, however, both invited and encountered challenge. A while back I posted about the troubling sense I had come to that by not only desiring to become a woman, but by desiring to become at least in the figurative sense a lady (what one might argue to be a highly gender-socialised woman), my transgenderism would put me as far beyond the pale for feminists – whose views I respect – as it would for reactionary conservatives – whose views I do not. Such did indeed prove to be the case…

‘“I prefer to consider myself a feminist, but do I pay feminism a grave disservice by embodying the idea that a certain physical form carries an “appropriately gendered” code of behaviour?” [Original quote]

Given that feminists such as Germaine Greer view gender as a social construct designed specifically for male dominance and female oppression, the short answer is “yes.” The slightly longer answer is that this idea of an “appropriately gendered code of behavior” is patriarchy.’

(Comment by Elle Kacee, in response to https://burnseleanor21.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/pygmalion-syndrome/)

This post is thus in response to Elle Kacee’s blog “Social Essentialism – Feminism Gone Radical,” in which she expounds the Radical Feminist viewpoint that “gender,” far from being a biological destiny, is merely a social programming, albeit a very pervasive one that cannot be easily unravelled (or arguably not at all), and which – like it or not – even trans people will have internalised, even if (in their own estimation) they have been very unsuccessful or unwilling in embodying it. Though I would be deeply sceptical of the idea that everyone in the world is subject to two basic cookie-cutter models of social indoctrination with no nuances whatsoever, I cannot altogether refute the principle. In my own case, after the exquisite horror of adolescence, when it seemed I was now irrevocably trapped in the wrong, very manly body and had better make the best of a bad lot, I attempted with varying degrees of embarrassment and awkwardness to ape masculine social norms. The fact that I feel much happier expressing myself in feminine ways merely proves that I am much happier expressing myself in feminine ways. Not that I am better-programmed as a woman or that I have a “feminine soul” (though I would certainly love to believe the latter, but the metaphysics of gender dysphoria is a different kettle of fish from the politics).

One post that particularly drew my notice on Social Essentialism was the following: “What makes a real woman?” Answering an article on the proposed inclusion of transwomen within the aegis of feminism, Kacee rejects the proposal with the following:

‘“But isn’t that the point of feminism? The fact that our very biology, our femaleness, has been systemically exploited by men for the purposes of sexual slavery and forced reproduction in ways that cannot be analogized onto the male body? Isn’t all the rest just symptoms of this underlying disease? If we take the “female” out of “feminism,” aren’t we left with a directionless “every(wo)man” movement that essentially means nothing? What am I, a biologically female, girlhood-surviving mother to do with a feminism that paints me as a phony or nonexistent woman while championing for male-bodied trans women to claim the title of “real woman?”’

Curiously, instead of offending me, this post drew me back to a now distant past when I was still Anthony Burns, a decidedly effete but male-presenting figure, prey to dysphoric self-loathing but not yet feeling up to emerging from my closet, and I remembered one event that may well have helped to keep that closet door shut: I was in an LGBT-friendly pub with my then girlfriend, when a very (I mean overtly) femininely-dressed but obviously male-bodied figure sidled up to me on the bench, all fishnet stockings and golden sequins. At the time I assumed she was a drag queen, and I only discovered later that she was in fact a transwoman – a fact which did not make me especially proud of my own latent inclinations. At any rate, I brushed off her overtures as civilly as possible, bearing in mind I was clearly with someone and not soliciting random singles. This did not thrill her, though, and having scowled at my partner she made some snarky aside about how she was “more of a woman” than my partner could ever be.

When I discovered that this boastful and rather pathetic person was my fellow GD-sufferer, I was instantly ashamed, and I thought at the time it was much better to pretend to be a “normal” man than to go down that route. Unfortunately, I found no exit to my dysphoria along the other route, and I thus ended up backtracking with my tail more tightly between my legs than ever. Which does at least go to show one thing that tends to get glossed over by radfems…

Gender dysphoria (FtM or MtF) is not a fetish, a game of “let’s pretend,” or indeed any sort of choice whatsoever. It is a pathological condition, and thus may arguably be said to be something to be pitied rather than celebrated, but it will not vanish simply because both radicals and reactionaries find it disgusting in equal measure. One might as well tell sufferers of autism to pull themselves together and stop being a nuisance… One does not expect Radical Feminism to bend over backwards to accommodate the needs of trans people (that is the proper business of doctors and lawmakers, in any case), but a little compassion goes a long way.

Rant over. At any rate, when I finally knew I had to abandon the pretence and become myself, I kept one reservation: that I would never presume to tell a born woman that I was “more of a woman” than them, or assume that I ever could be. It must at least be conceded to Radical Feminism that the experience of growing up as a girl, and the social expectations laid upon one from childhood – whether intentionally by parenting, or by osmosis from society in general – are not equivalent to the experience of growing up with either the status or the covert knowledge of being trans (though that carries its own stigmas and trials, of course). To borrow and clarify a statement from Prof. Greer…

“There’s a hardship about being a woman. I always wanted to be a Jew, but I can’t be.”

(http://attitude.co.uk/germaine-greer-transphobia-doesnt-exist/)

One can assume Greer is making a distinction between Jewish as in ethnic identity, and Jewish as in religion, as it is indeed possible for a non-Jew to convert to the latter. Nevertheless, I think it safe to say that Jewish people with a lifetime background in the culture and faith, generational history, and extensive knowledge, would find it pathetic if not downright offensive if the enthusiastic neophyte then went about proclaiming they were “more of a Jew” than anyone else.

The analogy is crude, and radical feminists will inevitably object that it is simply impossible for a man to “convert” to womanhood, except possibly by the definitions of the patriarchy (which radical feminism exists to deconstruct). I have no argument to that. However, I cannot deny that it has felt wonderful to be accepted as Eleanor by the women at my place of work, and in experience terms I can only compare that to the acceptance I have indeed felt in certain faith environments, where my desire to join the group was accepted unconditionally and warmly in spite of my lack of background in the faith, my deficient knowledge of it, etc. And I am under no illusions that I will always be the acolyte. I am a makeshift woman at best. It still feels better than being a dysphoric man, though…

Conclusion? I know I am on shaky intellectual ground, but transgenderism is not an intellectual challenge or a political statement. It is a medical condition, and the way it is treated by the NHS – the hormones and the surgery (albeit only after extensive psychological screening) – is not motivated by politics but by a perfectly Hippocratic desire to restore the sufferer to as much health and happiness as possible. I am dismayed to see (certain) transwomen childishly and unwisely competing with women and with feminists on their own turf, but I am also dismayed to see (certain) feminists* beating on transpeople as a whole class, denying they even exist per se, and implying that they are delusional, unfit to speak for themselves, and ought to just shut up, stop muddying the waters, and trust in the eventual revolution and abolition of gender to magically cure their transgenderism / transsexualism rather than in drastic (but statistically successful) medical interventions.

As I might have mentioned before, it would take an astonishingly irresponsible / sociopathic thinker (or an average conspiracy theorist) to advise cancer sufferers to eschew western medicine because a new miracle cure might be just around the corner, or to advise people to distrust renewable energy because any day now someone will reinvent Nikola Tesla’s free energy machine…

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*By which I do not include Elle Kacee, if she happens to be reading this, as she has permitted me to rail on at length on her blog and – while evidently unconvinced of the validity of transgender experience – pays the courtesy of using gender-neutral pronouns to those of us who are clearly upset at being referred to by our birth-assigned pronouns. A little compassion, as I said…

2

Stark Staring Sane

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Another huge sigh of relief breathed today, as my preliminary mental assessment is now out of the way, and initial results are looking promising. Having woken up early, dressed smartly, made myself up, and stressing myself out something silly, I made my way down to the local mental health centre in the company of a very dear, and very patient friend who is thankfully used to my pessimism, though on arrival that seemed slightly justified: the booked psychiatrist – who had been recommended to me by my NHS contacts – was on leave and I was assigned to the locum. The appointment was also late in starting, and I was beginning to feel the omens were against me…

Fortunately, my superstition proved to be just that. I was a little unnerved to be spilling my soul in front of a stranger, not to mention the medical student in the room for training purposes – not the most tactful of touches, but I guess they need to learn somewhere. Still, when the session began, it swiftly became apparent that I need not do anything but answer honestly, and the referral to the gender identity clinic would be recommended. The only point the psychiatrist suggested might make them a little wary – as expected – was the relatively short amount of the time I had been living fully as a woman, though as I mentioned to him, by the time the GIC actually deigns to get in touch I will probably have many more months of Real Life Experience under my belt.

To anyone planning a similar course, here are the points which I think particularly helped me to secure that referral. Some are just down to luck and circumstance, but others can be taken into account by anyone wishing to undergo the same process.

1. Education. There were a good few questions about this. I wasn’t altogether certain of the relevance, but my academic background seemed to play in my favour and helped to establish a rapport.

2. Being in work, and being openly trans in work. Of obvious relevance, and from what I hear anyone wishing to undertake the Real Life Experience will need some form of employment (Voluntary work counts, however).

3. Having the support of family and friends.

4. Having already changed my name by deed poll and having altered my name on the personnel records at work. The more you can do to show your commitment by erasing your former name with official channels, the better. If you want to start it on the cheap, incidentally, this is the place to go

5. Not having self-medicated with anything deadlier than herbals, though they were quite surprised to hear that the herbal supplements had caused any effect at all. Apparently, nascent (but finally noticeable) cleavage is supposed to be beyond the capabilities of over-the-counter alchemy from health food stores, but my body tells another story…

6. Having obviously researched the topic of gender reassignment and having a clear sense of what I wanted out of it. My answer to that? “To be as complete a woman as I can be.” It seemed to go down positively.

7. Personal presentation. Be neat and showered, at any rate, but I certainly don’t think it harms to turn up looking as feminine as one can or dares, bearing in mind questions do often hinge upon the Real Life Experience.

So now the referral goes back to my GP, and from thenceforth to Charing Cross GIC, though the question of hormone therapy remains open. The psychiatrist seemed of the opinion that it might be possible to prescribe some measure of that before I actually go to London – bearing in mind the GIC could be months in replying – but that decision would rest with my GP. I can but hope she will be extra-sympathetic, as these herbs – surprising effects nothwithstanding – are burning big holes in my purse.

Still, I could hardly have hoped for a better response, and from what the psychiatrist told me, they seem to have even fast-tracked the preliminary assessment. Someone seems to be smiling over me… though I appreciate this incessant stream of good news probably makes for drab reading. I am even beginning to despair of getting some nasty discrimination in work, as the managers are all being so supportive and keeping the bigots (of which we have our share) in line. I think they are all too aware that there are many people in Cardiff who would gladly have their jobs to throw them away on dubious principle…

On the other hand, this is probably a damn good occasion to be careful of what you wish for, and all superstition aside I can only concur with that sentiment. I once thought it folly, but I wished many times that God would change me into a woman… and oddly enough it seems to be happening, albeit under the slow and painstaking hands of modern science. But when I think of the facts that have aligned in my favour, not to mention the hundreds of generations of gender-dysphoric people who were denied this opportunity – including my literary icon (and degree major) Percy Bysshe Shelley – it is hard to think of it in any other terms than a wonderful miracle.