Let's face it, being Transgendered is the new "Gay" isn't it? All over the media, equal rights, lots of profile. Well, no, not really. There are still so many misconceptions out there about what it's like to be like me, I thought I would help with a lazy persons guide- and answer the questions you probably should not be asking, but need the answers to anyway. And yes, I have been asked all these.
1. What does "transgendered" mean?
Good question, glad you asked. Put two trans- people in a room and this would cause a debate. So, what chance do you have? Let's go with the NHS definition then:
Trans and transgender are terms that are used to describe people who don’t conform to the traditional division of male and female.
Trans embraces many different types of people and lifestyles, including:
People who cross-dress (transvestite people). These people sometimes wear the clothing of the opposite sex, but don't want to live full-time as a member of the opposite sex.
People who feel that they're both male and female, or neither male nor female.
Drag queens, drag kings and other people who don’t appear conventionally masculine or feminine.
Transsexual people. These are people who have a strong and constant desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex. Many transsexual people have gender reassignment treatment to make their appearance more consistent with their preferred gender. This often involves hormone therapy and surgery.
Fairly easy then? I'm in the last group by the way.
2. What made you want to become a woman?
I never wanted to become a woman, I always was one. It was just that I was physically male, but my brain developed female characteristics and thought patterns in the womb. Believe me, that causes a lot of stress as you try and make your way through life, in my case, mainly denying vehemently that this could be possible. Growing up in Birmingham in the Seventies was not an ideal place to seek information about it either!
3. Are you having the full sex- change?
See above- and indeed below ( I meant the next question). This term is anathema to anyone identifying as trans. This is not a sex-change, I am not changing anything, other than the physical appearance most people identified with me through my life. For me, this means my brain and body are finally moving into alignment, which feels marvellous. even if I have had to put up with looking somewhat ambiguous for a while- and probably still do.
4. Are you having the "operation"?
Oops, that really is a no no. Imagine you're having Sunday lunch at your Mother-in-Law's. You ask, "so, when are you having the hysterectomy then?" Exactly. It's that type of question: one you just would not ask.
The short answer would be "none of your business". Some people do, others don't feel the need. In my case, I don't know you nearly well enough to tell you.
5. Isn't it about sexual preference?
Aha, the old sexuality question. It's really quite straightforward. Sexuality is about sexual preferences: some people like men, others like women. Some like both. Being trans is about gender, as the label suggests. Just like you, some transgendered people like the opposite sex, others the same sex and some both. It's a easy as that.
6. But what about actual sex?
Well, the physical changes to the family jewellery, caused by taking female hormones, combined with regular injections to reduce testosterone have fairly devastating effects on one's male sex-drive ( hurrah to that) and it makes me a more considerate driver too! So, we are left with the answer to 4. above, and I'm still not telling you.
7. When did you know?
I always knew; but things really got messy (please pardon the pun) around puberty when I was desperately trying to ignore what my brain was telling me. I mean, I just wanted to sleep with girls didn't I, not be one? Thus began the long periods of floating down "denial", which is a long, sometimes lifelong, river of doubt and confusion that we sail on. It causes psychological damage, addictions and often, tragically, suicide, as we come to terms (or not) with who we are. In my case, it was about a regular series of knee- jerk life changes, relationships, jobs, homes- anything that attempted to create enough distraction so I didn't have to face the truth.
8. So, it's a psychological condition then?
Not paying attention are we? Whilst it can cause serious psychological problems, it is most definitely NOT itself a psychological problem. The real, exact cause is thought to be when the brain develops in the womb, causing the disparity between assigned sex at birth and brain sex. Also, I am the proud recipient of letters confirming I am not suffering from any mental illness!
9. Were you "effeminate" as a child?
Why would I be? I liked spending time doing "girl" and "boy" things. I love sport, but don't many girls? This, combined with the years of denial, led me to throw myself into sport, obsessionally. I played cricket to a decent standard, and rugby for nearly 30 years, mostly as a fly half who liked to tackle! I think it's fair to say that most people who knew me, particularly mates at the rugby club, had no idea who the real me was. How could they? I spent long enough trying to answer that particular question myself.
10 How does it feel wearing women's clothes?
It beats the hell out of going out naked! My neighbours are very happy with that too, as are people at work. It feels natural. My mates, and anyone I was in a relationship with, were always amazed that I was able to find my way through the whole what to buy a woman thing- bra sizes, handbags, the lot. It came very naturally to me- not surprisingly, as it turned out.