Thoughts and ideas (plus a little gender theory) from an intellectually curious, content and not full-time transwoman.
- “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I remember waiting for my post therapy assessment after my 4 months stint at the Montreal General Hospital gender clinic. Nancy Dubois, my therapist, saw me in the waiting room as I waited to see what turned out to be three women therapists who all ran private practices, and confided later that I looked like I was carrying the world on my shoulders. If I think back I believe she wasn't far off in her assessment. After being approved for more therapy only now payable by me instead of the Quebec government, I decided to stop the process there. I remember sitting there in my dress and heels as I was being interviewed and feeling that one of the three was judging me with her rather peculiar stare. When the discussion was over I left and didn’t stay to see Dr. Assalian for my final evaluation.
I desperately didn't want to be a transsexual.
It took many more months after that coupled with N leaving for me to start putting things into some kind of focus. That period is chronicled her…
Gender dysphoria can be treacherous because it can fool you into thinking that you need to change your status quo. Wouldn’t I be happier as a woman it asks? Well maybe yes and maybe no but I have seen the euphoria of the moment be displaced to reveal a more sober reality only hours later.
I’ve had to learn to trust myself and not what my dysphoria demands of me and that has taken me years to understand. I think this is why a slow unwrapping of your psyche is what is required here. You need to let a lot of time and reflection slowly take you in a direction where you feel comfortable and stable. Rash and quick decisions are likely to work against you.
I know it is difficult to exist in a netherworld that is neither perfectly A nor B. Sometimes you want to just choose a side and be done with it but the trouble is that you don’t know whether changing camps will be any better. Here I am reminded of Third Way Trans’s blog where he talks about how he felt after his transition to female and h…
Yesterday N and I were chatting before dinner and the name Joanna Cassidy came up in the context of one of us mentionning "Six Feet Under". You might recall her as a character on the critically acclaimed HBO show.
Then suddenly she asks me if I feel like I am more (insert my male name) or more Joanna. I had to think about it for a second but having to answer that on the spot is actually quite complex. I alluded to that challenge in my response although I can't repeat verbatum how I answered. I thought about it again this morning and thought I would respond more fully here because I know she sometimes reads my blog.
The male and female me are not characters I play but more like gender presentations that reflect my mood while still reflecting the same internal essence. I don't know why this dichotomy exists in me but at this point it doesn't matter because I am happy. Even if the vast majority of the world's population has no such need, there are those like m…
My friend with pancreatic cancer is hanging tough. I had lunch with him this past week and he told me he believes he is going to get through this and why shouldn't he? The odds may be long but thinking otherwise is not going to help him either. I am very impressed by his attitude and seeing him grounds me and reminds me that I have no problems in comparison. He spends his days rather routinely and since his wife and two sons are not home, it leaves him craving the company which I am only too happy to provide.
Meeting one on one allows for an intimacy of discussion that a small group would not. He has told me that he prefers this format and so do I; if others do the same it will spread his time with visitors all the more.
I told him that he is living his life more honestly than anyone I know. His existence is stripped down to a bare bones reality and there is no window dressing of distraction and false obligations to sap his energy. I know he lives in his mind more than he would li…
Jack Molay’s survey of over 1,100 people which he conducted recently over at his site Crossdreamers.com is yielding some very interesting results.
One finding is that only 22% of the respondents self identify as feeling fully male, with the rest either identifying as female, both genders, neither gender or sometimes male and sometimes female. This result helps dispel the tired myth about the happy crossdresser content with his male identity while playing dress up. The other important finding is that 54% of the respondents suffer medium to severe gender dysphoria with only 26% saying it does not bother them too much.
Jack was kind enough to send me the preliminary results and the rest of the survey will prove to be even more transparent in showing that gender dysphoria is very much a graded phenomenon and that gender self identification varies greatly across a wide spectrum.
Why is this not surprising? Because we are human beings, we are complex and because topics dealing with the mi…
I am very saddened when I see the amount of suffering that transgender people and their families go through. Every time I read a blog entry by someone going through hell it makes me frustrated for them because you want to tell them that it’s going to be all right. The truth however is that for many, this is not always the case and it may take years to resolve their situation.
The internal process of self discovery that we go through is so prolonged that if we knew where we would land later on we might not have made certain decisions to begin with. For example, I married someone after the death of my father from cancer who wasn’t the right match and let someone go when I was young who I am now with again. These were my decisions and my life took a certain direction because of them.
Might I have done things differently if I had been more keenly aware of what I needed to be happy at each of those stages? It’s difficult to say.
Each stage of life allows us to mine another nugget of wisd…
Secrecy serves no purpose. The fear that most of us harbour in telling our spouses about our secret selves is often exaggerated and even if it is not it keeps us trapped in a kind of self imposed limbo.
I feared telling my ex-wife and even though my disclosure opened the door to divorce it was not really this that ended the marriage as there were other issues at play. So I ended up suffering in silence; first during my formative years at home and then for 13 years in a less than happy marriage.
I would never presume to counsel anyone on this since we all understand all too well our individual situations but I do find that in the end having all come out is the best way to go. Neither of you will be happy or fulfilled while something this important remains a secret. After all, this forms an essential component in your psychological identity as a person.
My inability to share something this intrinsic part of my being was killing me slowly.
The lives of gynephilic gender dysphorics seem to follow a very distinct pattern. As children they tend to be more sensitive than average and yet they are not particularly or overtly feminine. They blend in relatively well and show little to no signs to their parents that something might be amiss with their gender identity.
By 5 to 7 years of age they begin to notice that they have dreams, fantasies and perhaps exhibit signs that they are drawn to the idea of being females. If the family notices anything they are usually strongly discouraged and the child learns to suppress; at the very least the behaviour goes underground in order to avoid ridicule.
The onset of puberty brings a new wrinkle in that their burgeoning sexual attraction towards females is in conflict with this desire for feminization. The first signs of orgasms at the presence of these fantasies now become stressful and they begin to truly engage in all out eradication in an attempt to be normal. Unfortunately the "…
I love my mother but she can be a handful. She has mellowed at 78 years of age but I remember her during my youth being a spark plug of energy and regularly used her voice and temperament to make things known. N likes to affectionately refer to her as a “chihuahua on crack”.
When I was 5 or 6 years old I was admonished for the first time for trying to wear her shoes as having two sisters immediately follow my birth meant that I spent a lot of my time surrounded by females which of course included role play. My mother doesn’t remember ever doing this of course but it became permanently imprinted in my childhood memory as a marking event.
There is now very little doubt in my mind that the combination of having a loving but slightly distant father, an outspoken mother and two sisters immediately follow behind me in the birth order, contributed to my developing a transgendered identity. If you add to that any ingredients of genetic predisposition, you pretty much guarantee that something …
N and I met on a diving platform in the middle of a lake in 1987. She was a tall and beautiful brunette in the white bathing suit with the cottage that faced my friend's. When I saw her for the first time I was smitten.
After dating for a summer, I unceremoniously stopped calling her as I was about to re enter my third year of university. It's hard to understand in retrospect why I did that back then but I think I chalked it up in my mind as not being sufficiently interested in committing to someone while trying to complete a difficult technical program which required my undivided attention. My gender issues were of course still very much unacknowledged at that time.
Several years later she was married and any ideas I may have harboured about looking her up again were put to rest. I myself took my marriage vows by the mid 1990's and then domestic life with two children soon took over.
22 years later while browsing on Facebook and found her page. By this time we were both d…
Tomorrow morning I will once again met my friend Janet after Mass for coffee. She is in her early seventies, retired from Canada Post and lives alone in a condo not far from the Basilica we both frequent. We met quite accidentally when she fixed the falling belt on the trench coat I was wearing as she stood behind me to receive communion. That prompted a brief exchange after the service which eventually led to us having coffee on a regular basis.
I am able to be Joanna with her. She knows me as the divorced mother to two teens and does not doubt it. All of my practice with clothes, makeup, voice and mannerisms has led to my being able to accomplish this. Genetics has helped me to be sure but without belief in oneself nothing of this sort can be accomplished. I passed better physically in my twenties yet could never even dream to pull this type of exchange off back then.
I used to worry about deceiving people like her, but now I see this as an effective way to treat my dysphoria and st…
A good part of our journey involves letting go of some shackles. Most of us were raised with pretty strict messages about what kind of behaviour was acceptable for our birth sex and we adopted the archetypal patterns that were expected of us. The more we internalized the message the more difficult it became later in life to undo some of that damage.
It’s fair to say that North American and European cultures of the middle part of the twentieth century were extremely restrictive in their gender rules. Any deviation from the norm was unacceptable and in fact we saw an extreme exaggeration of what it meant to be man and woman. Men were to be masculine, virile and tough while women were to be submissive, feminine and nurturing. But this was to a great extent a mirage since a great many people never fit that model very well and they simply went underground. Men dressed as women in secret, some gays married women to try and fit in and people went to church because it was expected whether the…
I used to think that one of the main reasons I would never pass as a woman in public was my height. For the record I am 6’ 1” and while that makes me taller than the vast majority of women, I have seen many genetic females in that height range. When you see them in public you never doubt they are female and they don’t behave any differently than anyone else. They know who they are and look relaxed and at ease with their body.
Rewind to a time when I was less comfortable in public and I would chalk up the odd double take or stare to my height but it was really my body language and uneasiness showing through more than anything else.
Last night I was in two women’s clothing stores trying on a few items. In both cases I had nice exchanges with the sales people and felt comfortable and at ease. I saw nothing in their behaviour that would make me believe I was not passing and was addressed as Madame in both. In one store, the owner knows me and judging by our pre…
I am in a good place. I have been able to put my gender feelings in check and understand them or at least manage them in such a way that they do not dampen my daily existence. I want them to instead live harmoniously within it. It is a cumbersome thing to have unresolved issues running like a low humming motor in the background of your life. After a while you don’t notice them but they have significant impact nonetheless.
Ignoring and repressing never worked for me. I know there are others who have found that their dysphoria is sufficiently mild enough that they don’t need to dress as often or at all and manage their feelings in other ways. My embracing of my feminine expression has been working and I see no reason to tamper with it at this point.
Finding blogs like retransition.org and Thirdwaytrans.com has been encouraging because they represent the other side of the transition debate. They are detransitioned transwomen who in middle age decided that their transformations had not b…
We may rapidly be approaching transgender overexposure. It’s in the news, on social media and more and more people seem to be claiming the spotlight to announce their intent to transition.
Take fighting promoter Frank Maloney who announced recently of his intent to start living as a woman named Kellie at 60 years of age but then shows up on the UK version of Big Brother. Don’t get me wrong in that I am happy for her but I can’t help but feel that this appearance on a low brow program such as this only fuels the idea in some people’s minds that this whole transgender thing isn’t very dignified; only crazy people and mad artists need apply.
We have seen transitions in all walks of life and education levels and indeed, gender dysphoria does not discriminate in who it touches but I would like to hope that those who live in the public eye would be aware of the responsibility that they carry. They need to be seen in the best possible light to illustrate that we are as normal and balanced as…
"Eden Lane was one of many local journalists waiting to conduct quick interviews with famously tan star George Hamilton, who was in Denver last month to perform in a touring production of "La Cage Aux Folles."
Lane is the host of "In Focus with Eden Lane," now in its fifth season spotlighting local arts and culture every Friday on Colorado Public Television Channel 12. Something about her warm and disarming demeanor made Hamilton open up in a way he did not with anyone else that day.
Unprompted, Hamilton brought up his late brother, Bill Potter, who had suffered many unhappy years as a closeted gay man. "He never had a chance to be himself," Hamilton softly told Lane. On his deathbed, at age 53, Bill told his younger brother that if he had to do it all over again ... "I'd love more."
Those are the kinds of tender moments Lane elicits naturally, said Denver Center Attractions public relation…
Your gender dysphoria, no matter what its origin, needs to be acknowledged and treated. Based on my own life experience and all of my study on the subject, it tends to become more acute as we age so ignoring it is not an option.
But can there be a middle ground approach where we can treat the symptoms and avoid transition if its ultimately not the right option for us? I believe there is.
If you see your dysphoria as a foe you will do everything to ignore it and pretend it's not there. You may crossdress periodically to relieve the pressure and then throw everything away. Then you will hold your breath for another few months and hope the feelings don't return. But they always do return and as you become older and wiser you recognize this pattern only too well and decide to stop fooling yourself.
But then you may finally see your dysphoria as a friend and think: why fight it I'm trans and I must do what my trans nature tells me to do and transition. Your dysphoria is now dri…
Thirdwaytrans is a website run by a former transwoman and offers the unique perspective of someone who transitioned at age 19 only to detransition 20 years later.
This particular entry from the site is nothing short of brilliant and I just had to post it in its entirety. Not only do I agree strongly with what is being said but the analysis here is very much spot on. I also very much favor his use of the term erotic imprinting instead of what Blanchard calls AGP:
Third Way – Why I am in neither the AGP camp nor the feminine essence camp
I’ve had a couple of people read my writing and assume that I believe that my MTF transition (and maybe all MTF transitions) are caused by a fetish. This is not what I believe and I am trying to be careful with language to emphasize that point. I don’t believe my female identity was caused by a fetish. Indeed this stuff is complicated, and does not lend to a simple solution.
I think the idea that pre-transition fantasies of being female and transitioning…
For those of us who don’t fit perfectly into the binary model, the term transgendered may be a good descriptor. In fact it should maybe stand in as short hand for the phrase “transcending gender”
But for type V and VI transsexuals things are a little different since their primal requirement seems to be full and complete transition. The question for me then becomes: how much is the drive towards full physical transition based on an absolute necessity?
I have less trouble understanding androphilic transsexuals since their transformation is clearly a win-win scenario; they are not only highly dysphoric but are also attracted to men. But for gynephilic transsexuals should physical transformation be so obvious since they are still sexually drawn to women?
It is true that the hormonal transformation process leaves most transsexuals with severe erectile dysfunction and most genetic women are hard pressed to accept a partner’s transition so perhaps it’s a moot point but, with the understand…
I don’t see gender dysphoria as hating your body as much as feeling an affinity for being the other gender. The old sterotype phrase was “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body” but that’s not really correct and I have never felt this way.
Most of the time I am perfectly happy being a male and am not uncomfortable at all in my skin but my dysphoria sometimes conspires to make me think that this shouldn’t be the case. It tries to tell me that I would be happier as a full time woman.
I have now learnt to read how my dysphoria works and understand how it ebbs and flows and how to feed its appetite with the right amount of cross gender expression so that it allows me to live a normal life; at least as normal a life as a transgendered person can have. There is an anomaly that resides in our brains that makes us unique and I have learnt how to deal with it so that my quality of life is not hampered more than it needs to be.
I know we are all different and some of us want to do more but we ca…
People don’t tell you what they really think. Most will tell you what you want to hear or what is politically correct but in a private setting or over an informal discussion they might tell you how they really feel about something.
This happens in almost every type of imaginable scenario and most certainly in the case of a transgendered person in the workplace. A small group will be very accepting, the majority will tolerate and another minority will vilify him or her.
This is why you need to be thick skinned and not worry about what others think because in the end it won’t matter to your daily life. There are small minded people everywhere and, whether due to lack of education or personal hurts or plain old meanness, they will not be swayed in their opinion. Only those who care about you and your needs and whose affections are returned by you need matter.
It’s probably more important to be respected than to be liked although having both would be ideal. Unfortunately there are far too…
Maybe you have them where you live: sale stands where they sell hand creams or cosmetics operated by young men and/or women. They petition people walking past them to stop and try their product with the promise that it is the best around and are often strategically placed in shopping malls in the highest traffic areas.
A few years ago I would walk past them dressed as a woman and I would be more often than not deliberately ignored. I never knew if it was my inability to pass, my scared demeanour or a combination of both.
Well, today is a different story and I am as petitioned to stop and try their product as any woman would and I see this as another barometer of my increased ability to blend in and pass in public. Whether I am seen as a comfortable crossdresser, transsexual woman or genetic woman it matters not one whit.
I was at a Starbucks this past week and was just leaving when a woman poked me gently on the shoulder. She asked me if I knew who she was and after thinking about it for a second I recognized her. It was Helene Cote: the gender therapist I had seen a few times and have mentioned in this blog.
She was there with her young daughter but I asked if she could spare 5 minutes so we could have a brief chat since she asked me how I was faring. After collecting her beverages, she sat down with me for a short discussion. She told me that her daughter asked who the lady was, and her reply had been that I was a friend.
I quickly filled her in on what had been going on since we last spoke and about my intention to continue living my life as I have been. I told her I have no plans to transition and will deal with my gender dysphoria as I have been for the last few years. She nevertheless asked me if I would be willing to come to a group session to speak about how I am managing. Not all of her patie…
When taking our first awkward steps experimenting with our gender presentation, many of us make the mistake of working a little too hard on the externals and less on the internals. I suppose that is normal because we haven’t been trained to be a woman and, while I don’t presume to be one, my mind and body crave that experience. The reason remains a mystery.
We go through the beginning phases of how to apply makeup, choose body appropriate clothing, find a working voice and learn to carry our body the right way. Eventually we find a formula that works for us but not after passing through an awkward and sometimes comical stage where things don’t quite work. I think a lot of this has to do with our internal discomfort and feeling like we shouldn't be doing what we are doing.
Then somehow the planets align and the physical and mental begin to merge. You approach a state you are happy with and that equilibrium makes you say: “I’ve attained a place I am comfortable and I am myself” even…
I watched “The Nature of Things” last night which covered the topic of homosexuality. Their key question was whether gay men actually born gay and if so, what causes this and how could homosexuality have survived the evolutionary process.
Gay filmmaker Bryce Sage sets out to answer this question on a cross-country and around the world journey and along the way confronts his own homosexuality and family history. He explores the nature vs. nurture side of the issue and talks to animal biologists about their studies of homosexuality in other species. There is documented evidence of homosexuality in over two hundred.
Bryce visits Samoa and discovers that every family has a male member who is either gay or is encouraged to become more feminine to support familial needs. The idea is that homosexuals, like the fa’afafine (or third gender) may not reproduce themselves, but in the support of their blood (and therefore genetic) relatives, they increase their overall chance for survival.
I have an outing routine that includes several coffee houses as well as shopping malls. These malls are convenient because not only are they strategically located throughout the city; they also provide shelter during the blistering heat of summer and the frigid days of winter. I got my start in cross gender expression in shopping malls and even if I don’t limit myself in where I go these days, they are still a good option for me.
Over the last few years I have gotten to know numerous merchants and have become friendly with them. This has helped make my outings more interesting and more social and even if these people may not be close friends, they form part of a group that helps me validate my identity as Joanna. They can always be counted on to be there when you arrive to buy your coffee or that top that’s on special.
I purchase far less than used to because in the beginning I was using it as a way to test my mettle. I wanted to interact to see how well I could pass or be taken serio…