I believe I mentioned before that in my country the legislation has been changed to allow transgendered people to go through transition much faster, change their paperwork to reflect their legal names, even during pre-op (and surgery is not any more a requirement to legally change your name and gender), and allow them to marry the gender they wish. As you may imagine, the gender community is quite happy about all this (while the religious conservatives are furious). And this really has speeded up the process of transition, for those interested in going through it. I have noticed, with mixed feelings, how two acquaintances of mine have very quickly progressed through the first stages and are now on hormones and getting ready for planning their first “real life tests” — in one case, going through the national health service; in the other, through a private clinic. The speed seems to be similar in both cases and it’s more a matter of preference (and money!): less than half a dozen appointments are necessary. The first sessions are just to determine if the person is minimally serious about transition (e.g. not wasting everybody’s time with a hoax or a bad practical joke); the next try to estimate the kind of support received by family and friends; after that comes hormonal therapy. The whole history of crossdressing doesn’t seem to have a lot of influence on the evaluation, but more the desire to change gender. Also, doctors are not stuck to the old school of thought that only “primary transexuals” (those that have felt being in the wrong body as early as they have memories, and desiring sexual relations with the opposite gender after transition). “Late transexuals” and “lesbian transexuals” (as well as transexuals with a low libido and not really so much keen on the whole sexual experience) are perfectly accepted and swiftly progress through the same steps as the so-called “primary transexuals”.
Now please don’t get me wrong! I’m certainly way happy to know that things are much easier now — no need to drag people over years or sometimes decades through a complex process, while keeping them suffering all the time — and that, at least for a while, Portugal’s laws are setting an example for other countries to follow (not bad for a relatively conservative and little tolerant country, where transexuals and even crossdressers are routinely beaten up and even murdered, and the police even avoids to investigate those cases, unless seriously pressed by the LGBT groups and/or the media). But I might fear that there is too much “eagerness” in getting a swift transition, when there might be other causes for gender disphoria. To me, it looks like the 1990s in the US/Canada and other countries who accepted gender disphoria and SRS as a solution much earlier than Portugal, and, as a results, doctors pressed their clients to progress quickly towards the real life test and SRS (because many had their clinics ready for accepting surgery…), even though the real causes for gender disphoria might not have been addressed at all.
What causes are those? The link posted above — read it with an open mind but a critical one as well; the author recommends not to take everything he writes at face value, but to be skeptic of his own words as well — gives a few examples. A typical case is someone generally frustrated with their own lives and, born as a male, sees the “maleness” as the source of all problems and females, in general, possessing desirable traits (e.g. tenderness, strong and deep emotions, ability to empathise and socialise with others, etc.), and so wishes to switch gender to identify with those traits they like. When they finally go through SRS, the problem is that the ultimate cause frustration was not really “being male”, but exaggerating the defects of being male and exaggerating the advantages of “being female”. Physically, they might have changed gender, but mentally, they’re still the same person: and this will soon make them (or their doctors) realise the huge mistake they made. Therapists might — belately — then help the person with their fundamentally skewed view of the world, and relieve them from the original misjudgements, but, by then, even if they realise that they could perfectly have dealt with “being male” if they had gone through therapy first, and retain family, friends, and their job, now it’s too late — and therapists have to work with them to accept their new situation. Another typical case is someone exhibiting all symptoms of depression or of obsessive-compulsive behaviour and attributing it to transgenderism; doctors might prescribe the transition as a way to cure those symptoms. But after transition, depression or obsession-compulsion are not “cured”, and by then, the doctors realise they have mixed up cause and symptoms: it was not transgenderism that was causing depression, but depression that caused transgenderism. But by then it’s too late to switch back…
Again, please understand that I’m not claiming that all cases are like that. The issue that the article’s author raises is that in many cases (perhaps even most — he doesn’t quote many studies), a wrong diagnosis of transgenderism is possible, in the eagerness to help people to transition. Mixing cause and effect seems to be rather easy in the case of gender disphoria. And the person itself might not be the best one to judge in those cases!
For example, the more I analyse myself, the more confused I feel. “Analysing myself” is the core of my daily Buddhist practice (there are thousands of methods for that), and obviously the first result I get is that my body may influence my mind, but my mind is definitely apart from the body — how could I “feel female” when I have a male body instead? More than that: why did I try to “repress” my female feelings — in my teens — for fear of being labeled “homosexual” (even though I felt a very strong attraction to females and all things female), but now that I don’t repress them any longer, they spontaneously arise — all I need is to relax a bit — and push me to wear women’s clothes? If the mind were “glued” to the body somehow, it would be impossible to have transexuality — but cases like mine, where sometimes I feel “more female” and sometimes “more male”, would be utterly unthinkable.
In fact, looking at my wife, or even at my mother, I can see that both value those “male traits” which we transgendered people so dislike — rationality, reason, being practical and pragmatic, being intellectual, and so forth — and often despise the “irrationality” (often hormone-induced) that makes them commit mistakes and do or tell things they regret later — much like a drunkard admitting that it was only because of the influence of the alcohol that they felt like hitting/insulting someone. I might be giving some extreme examples for you to see my point: my mother or my wife (as well as many, many others whom I’ve met) are not transgendered at all, but their behaviours — and even the way they wish to behave — is much more stereotypically “male” than “female”. They both consider themselves very much like women and wouldn’t dream of transition. They just have dealt with the notion that there are some stereotypically male behaviours and some stereotypically female ones (some hormone-induced, most socially induced), and they identify more with the typically male behaviours. That doesn’t “make” them “less female”; rather the contrary, they both value the fact that they are able to decide what their behaviour should be, depending on the circumstance — whatever works best and is more appropriate or functional — and not because of their gender.
Thus when describing myself (as I did once to a sociologist), I think that I’m basically, fundamentally female at some deep level in my mind. However, because I have a male body, and have been conditioned for over four decades to behave like a male, I’m relatively good at “acting” male. Even if I’m not absolutely convincing in my male persona, that’s all right, because most people will look at my body, classify me clearly as male, and shrug off the idiosyncrasies as being merely minor eccentricities.
In fact, having trained the art of role-playing a male character for so long, it’s the female character that might require a lot of training, since, if I ever transition (which becomes more and more unlikely as I grow older), it will require “unlearning” everything I’ve learned so far to display a mostly male behaviour. A feminine mind does not imply an automatic female behaviour; if it were so, all women in the world, at all ages, would behave in exactly the same way. This clearly is not the case: each behaves differently, according to personality, society, and epoch. So there is some behaviour — most of it, in fact — that requires training and learning, until it becomes natural. I should expect the same to happen to me; in fact, a lot of things are “easier” for me when wearing women’s clothes during my CD sessions, but some are not; for example, sitting crosslegged while wearing a corset requires some training. Manipulating small objects with long fingernails is not easy. Having a feminine mind does not help with the behaviour, it just helps to accept that behaviour as being more appropriate to the kind of mind I believe I have.
Some might reason that taking hormones will aid the process of behaving more naturally female. That might be so in some cases — since hormones will definitely trigger new and different emotions, and these are certainly useful to make some feminine traits to be displayed more naturally. But, on the other hand, if I ever transition, I really don’t want to display a completely different role or character: I will still be a pseudo-intellectual, I will still remain calm and reasonable most of the time, and I do not really wish to feel the urge to cry, giggle, or hug people all the time; in fact, as most women I know, I have no desire to behave in a stereotypical way. While obviously I have this urge to behave in certain ways which aren’t allowed for males — like choosing women’s clothing, or discussing some topics that are more identified with women than with males (like shoes and makeup!) — it doesn’t mean that everything about stereotypically female behaviour is appealing to me. Reversely, there are obviously some stereotypically male traits which make life more functional: like reasoning things through and applying logic and experience to deal with difficult problems, instead of relying upon emotions, intuition, and feelings to deal with everything. In fact, the more women I meet, the more they display all these stereotypically male traits. I have no interest in discarding them!
And the reason for that is because I believe that most of the urges I have to “become female” (even if only temporarily) are not because I hate myself or my life, but simply because the basically feminine mind I have feels much more comfortable in a female environment than in a male one.
Now back to my real example. One of my acquaintances has a terrible life: a wife that haunts her (I fundamentally depressed and unhappy person, who is keen on sharing that unhappiness with everybody, even her husband), pretty much no sexual activity, a work which is not fulfilling, and a strong Catholic background which encourages suffering and discourages happiness. On top of that, some health issues typically associated with a sedentary life full of stress (much of it probably psychosomatic, but just because the cause is in your mind, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt a lot!!), with a wife that actively scorns the suffering and laughs at her. Well, that’s definitely not a happy life! To worsen it, my acquaintance has a lot of unfulfilled dreams and wishes which never became reality (most don’t), and this causes further depression — she already went through several nervous breakdowns and took weeks to recover. Being stubborn and fundamentally believing that through one’s own effort, one can change our own lives (an attitude that I applaud!), she has recovered and tolerated most of the things that her life has thrown at her and endured it in bitterness but with strength (a typical male trait!).
However, she started to crossdress some years ago, and that brought her a new experience: stress relief. It’s a well-researched subject: for a lot of males, becoming a woman, even for just a few hours, is enough to trigger some endorphins and relieve stress. So after a while this becomes a way to escape from an unhappy life. Escapism can come through TV, drinking, sex, or whatever works as stress relief; crossdressing, possibly because of the complexity of the rituals involved, and the idea of being totally different, can be very stress-relieving. And naturally in the crossdresser’s mind an association is formed: when I dress as a woman, my life is wonderful. When I get back to male mode, the illusion is shattered, and I have to face my unhappy life again.
My acquaintance is not a regular crossdresser. While she’s quite bold, to the point of picking a pair of female boots on shops, while fully dressed as a male, the truth is that she doesn’t dress that often — a few times per year, usually around our local equivalent of Mardi Gras (“Crossdresser Holiday”, as we call it 🙂 ). She’s lucky enough to have a gorgeous figure, and as Mardi Gras is during our winter time, it means covering up a lot of body — no need to shave the arms, legs, or chest and have to daily face the looks of strangers at one’s body. Nevertheless, those few and scattered moments have left a deep imprint on her mind: she associates all the good that happens to her during the moments she’s fully dressed as a woman, and all the bad comes from being male. So she started visiting doctors to ask for transition. She’s now at the 3rd stage (that’s just before the real life test) after just a scattering of appointments, mostly because she has gone through several therapists and psychiatrists dealing with all her past frustrations and depressions.
Here is what makes me frown (and to be honest, she thinks the same way). It sounds like therapists are confusing correlation with causation. Yes, my acquaintance certainly has a long history of depression and related issues; yes, she certainly enjoys crossdressing when she can (her soon-to-be-ex-wife was totally against it, so she was limited in the time spent crossdressing). Both are definitely correlated: the harsh daily life leads to depression, crossdressing gives a positive ego boost and temporary relief from the daily life. This is relatively easy to confirm. But is the depressioncaused by gender disphoria, or is gender disphoria just a very effective form of escapism, one that is connected to all sorts of positive and happy things? That’s what the therapists are supposed to help her to find out. I’m no therapist, but I have talked with her for quite a while — perhaps as much, in terms of hours, as her own therapists. And what I see is a person who is so full of dreams, wishes, and expectations — none of which have to do with gender issues — that completely broke down and went through succeeding depressions because of them. Religious fundamentalism made her hold on to a marriage that none of the partners wanted, and that eroded on her last remains of patience. While it’s undeniable that she has a gorgeous feminine figure for her age (nearing 50) and a rather good dressing style (I only had access to very few images), she has, in fact, crossdressed very little in the past, and has not even taken the most basic of the steps, like shaving arms and legs, or having a permanent wardrobe, etc.
Now, again, please don’t get me wrong on this. I’m actually very very happy about her — she’s finally pursuing one dream of hers that will probably lead her out of her constant cycles of depression, or so we all hope. Making the transition swift is good for her, if that’s what she wants, and what she needs to be happy. I’ve been very encouraging to her, hoping that her doctors (and herself) know what’s best for her.
But sometimes I wonder if that’s the right decision. My acquaintance is a very angry and aggressive person; the harsh life she led left her like that. While reading and re-reading her emails, there is very little in her that is female. You know how it is — how easily you can pick up, even on a text chat conversation, if someone is male or female. There are tell-tale signs that will immediately show; it’s very hard, even for a professional male actor, to act very convincingly as a female, over a long period of time: “you can fool some people all the time, or all people some of the time, but never all people all the time”. My own experience is mostly in a virtual world, where I have participated over seven years, logging in constantly, interacting with thousands of people, often during several hours per day; since nobody sees how I look like, but just how my cute 3D avatar looks like, they have only my texts — and some blogs — to analyse. In those seven years, just two people ever found out that I wasn’t born female, but were too polite to tell me; they were both autogynephiliacs (latent crossdressers) and presented themselves as female as well — in one case even “passing” better than me, in the other, well enough for not having been spotted in the past seven years. Both are intellectuals and write in a style that is closer to what we identify as male; nevertheless, there are so many women intellectuals who don’t really “write as women” that they pass very easily for women in text.
When I look at the many many CD chat friends I’ve had in the past, what almost immediately catches my attention is how un-female-ish they write. Very few have an actual female mindset which flows easily when writing; they might be able to “role-play” a bit and “act female” for some moments, but their male selves will invariably come out very easily. And no, it’s not just talking about shoes and makeup; there is far more to that, from the way phrases are constructed and the kind of vocabulary they employ (and I’ve got a handicap: English is not my first language! Nevertheless, it’s relatively easy to figure out if you know what you’re looking for).
A lot of people tend to tell me that women get angry and aggressive too, and that these days, kids learn to speak and write independently of gender, and women emulate men in pretty much everything, including writing styles, but… it simply isn’t true. There are differences. When the mindset is male, no simple acting can hide that; but when the mindset is female, even if they’re not making an effort, the way they write will be mostly female-ish, enough to raise the doubt. My other acquaintance, who is also very quickly going through transition, is of that type. She writes a lot on forums, and many articles are neutral in tone — appropriate for disseminating information, so no fancy writing there — but if one didn’t know that she was born a male, it would be not easy to figure out. The whole way she approaches her crossdressing — and now her transition — is much more in line with the approach undertaken by a female mindset than a male one. And that shows in the way she writes.
Even some very aggressive activists, who write full of anger and contempt for a society that has a prejudice against transexuals, often write in a “female” style. Women can be angry too! But when they are, they write differently from angry males. The whole point of this is to explain that by analysing how males and females write, you can get a good understanding on how their mind works. And no — just to reinforce this idea over and over again — it’s not about the topics they write, it’s about how they write. A male writing about shoes and makeup with a male mindset will not read like a female — and a female discussing politics will “sound” female (well, most of the time at least). There are obvious exceptions; it’s very hard to figure out the author’s gender on a legal document or an academic paper, because both have very specific styles which are gender-neutral. But on a blog — or a casual text chat — it’s relatively easy to pick up some clues, and you’d be surprised at them; they’re far from obvious. One hint: women often write full sentences and get their spelling right most of the time 😉
So if I know that, and you know that, and everybody knows that… I’d be surprised to learn that a therapist currently in charge of evaluating the degree of “female-ness” of a potentially transitioning transexual would not know that. Why is it so important? Well, it was likely more important during the days where only so-called “primary transexuals” would be encouraged to transition and go through surgery: therapists and doctors would be scared to make a serious mistake (and, in fact, they have made far less mistakes than the popular media thinks).< Nowadays, however, it seems it's much less about being female but about wishing to be female. If someone just wants to switch their gender, and are prepared to take full responsibility for it — no matter what happens afterwards — they’ll get plenty of support for doing so. But it might not be the best option, or addressing the wrong problem.
Going back to my acquaintance, I fully understand that she feels very frustrated with her current life. After agreeing to divorce her wife, she’s now free to give up her former life and start from scratch. That’s a good point. She also wants to start from scratch as a woman. I have nothing to say against that — I wish I had the courage and energy to do the same as well. My only thought is that she won’t magically become a different person. She will carry her mindset through transition, and just become a frustrated, depressed, angry, and agressive woman instead of being a frustrated, depressed, angry, and agressive man. Why is that better?
Of course, she’s going to have counselling all the way and also afterwards. But the big question is not avoiding therapy — she is aware of the need. It’s the shaky scientifical approach being used by her therapists: because she has gone through so many instances of depression and required to deal with it, now that their therapists found that she got a lot of relief by crossdressing, they are hurrying her through transition, in the hope that the relief induced by living full-time as a female will make her depression, frustration, anger, and aggressiveness disappear. But that’s not going to happen. Instead, her therapists will just have to deal with all that plus the extra burden of living as a female 24h/7 in a society that legally protects transgendered people, but in practice ostracises them.
I have no idea what she will do for a living as a female. What I do know is that she has always lived without financial difficulties during her life as a male: always had a good-paying job, above-average living conditions, and used to live in a medium-sized University city, which, however, still has a large conservative population. She is thinking of moving away (which makes a lot of sense, since the city is small enough for everybody to notice her) and come to the capital, where twenty or thirty times more people work every day, and the degree of anonymity is far greater. That makes a lot of sense. But it also means forfeiting all comforts of a former life in a peaceful city with a good salary, and entering a new city where she’s for all purposes a stranger without a job — and the burden of being a transexual. There are no jobs for transexuals here, except for sex workers and on-stage performers (and that market is saturated); the activist groups are very small and already have more employees that they can afford to employ. So it means a tough time ahead, and during this financial crisis, the amount of unemployment stipends that she can expect to receive will not last long. She probably has a lot of reserves to live from, but how long will they last? Will she be able to adapt to a new lifestyle which might exclude pretty much any job that she has the experience to work for — because nobody will hire her for those kinds of high-paying jobs she’s used to work for? Strangely, in her talks with her therapists, I never heard that being mentioned, and I’m a bit afraid of raising the issue: as said, she gets angry easily, and I don’t want to discourage her in any way — I’m aware she already had a lot of bad experiences with “close friends” who somehow told her the “wrong” things, e.g. the ones she didn’t want to hear. That hints to a different kind of problem besides gender disphoria which transition will not solve, and the Big Change in lifestyle, city, environment, the way people will perceive her, will not help at all.
My other acquaintance is slightly different. She’s currently unemployed, but from the amount of money she spends every week — she keeps telling the community about all her shopping — I have to assume that she’s not worried about unemployment, so I have to assume that she has other sources of income. She’s not overly worried about engaging in many friendships or relationships, because she speaks very casually about them — again, one has to assume that she has broken a relationship recently (she just hinted about that very vaguely) but it didn’t affect her much. With that spirit, engaging in a completely new life might not be a huge obstacle. Another difference is that although she didn’t crossdress that often, at least now she’s picking some more “unisex” styles which can be read either way, and getting more courage to wear clothes that are more typically female. The idea I get is that she is fine in looking “out of place” with an ambiguous look — not clearly female, but not absolutely male as well. An androgynous personal style might get her labeled as homosexual (which she clearly isn’t; she is little interested in sexual activity), and homosexuals have lots of job opportunities, both inside and outside the (much larger) community. So it’s an interesting approach. Looking “out of place” can be attributed to eccentricity or to an “artistic” mindset, and both are relatively tolerated in several environments. I mean, she might be found unusual or strange, and gather a few strange looks on the street, but people will tag her as “eccentric” and not as “a guy trying to pass as a woman”. I don’t know if all that is deliberate, but it sounds to me as an interesting way to cope with transition: her “real life” test will be far less about dealing with the idea that everybody is going to look at her and say “you’re a guy wearing women’s dresses!” but rather eyebrow-raising with comments about how fashion, these days, is so outrageously androgynous or how artists are wearing the strangest things. If she’s able to live with that, she won’t have a problem, and so far, her few sorties as an “almost-female” have worked out fine.
To come around to the point, I believe that I don’t disagree with the idea of making gender switching much easier. In a sense, the message that the therapists of my first acquaintances are passing is that being male or female is of little relevance, so long as you’re happy with whom you are. Unlike the times before the 1990s, these days there is not such a fuss about that; transgenderism is a bit better researched nowadays, and doctors and therapists shouldn’t use “morality” as an excuse for refusing to aid a patient during her transition. Of course society sees this differently, but that’s not for doctors to judge. Thus, they don’t. What it matters to them is if the patient is definitely going to be happier after transitioning. They don’t want to be part of the problem, but part of the solution. And I think that’s the perfect attitude to have.
On the other hand, I feel there might be some neglect in the way the whole situation is being assessed. Someone with a history of depression, frustration, anger, anxiety, with difficulties establishing relationships and maintaining them, and that uses crossdressing as an escape valve to relieve stress, has a deeper problem that is just marginally related with gender disphoria. Sure, in many cases, it’s gender disphoria that leads to all those personality traits; “cure” gender disphoria through transition, and depression, frustration, anger and so forth will disappear.
But there is a serious risk that it works the other way round. I’m sure that all of you get some stress relief and feel happy when dressing — I’m not different! Many will probably see crossdressing as theonly way to relieve stress, or at least, the most important one (or the one with guaranteed results). However, many of you will not merely crossdress in order to relieve stress. Some will — this is definitely researched! — and you might even be a relatively large group. Most will havemany reasons for crossdressing, and stress relief is just one of the happy side-effects. Some will even be transexuals — even if you don’t admit it to yourself — and crossdressing is the only way to feel happy, although you might not even understand very well why. All those are valid reasons for crossdressing — as if crossdressing needs any “reason”, even though we all try to rationalise about it — but in some cases (I don’t know how many, but they’re statistically significant) the act of crossdressing might just be hiding something which remains unsolved.
On so-called primary transexuals, the “something” which is hidden is the utter rejection of one’s body, and some even report that crossdressing is “not enough” — because it’s just a “parody” of trying to be like a woman, but with a body that will not cooperate with the illusion: deep within, they know that the body is not right. These cases are all crystal-clear.
Most, however, are on a gray area. I have never heard my first acquaintance to say anything about her body; the way she acts in a “pushy” way tends to show that she actually likes her male body for the feeling of power that it gives to her. Luckily for her, she can really look great in women’s clothes — she will have little difficulty in passing. I nevr saw full body pictures of my second acquaintance, but I understand that she has a relatively androgynous body — not too male, not too female, but good enough to look like either, depending just a bit on the hair style and the clothes that are worn. In neither case I’ve heard that they “hated” their male bodies or that they were somehow unhappy about them. While both lack a very high libido, both don’t mention any frustration related to that. The first one clearly wants the transition because she wants to abandon her former life, and living like a woman seems to be the best way to cut with her past (but, unfortunately, she doesn’t understand that changing the body will not change the mind). The second one is not overly open about her reasons for transition, but just that it seems like a fun thing to do. Well, “fun” in most serious sense of the word: she’s interested in exploring her life as a woman, not really because she’s “frustrated” about being born a male, but just because it seems to be so much more interesting.
So at the end of the day it’s not much more beyond a wish to change. In the first case, there are a whole lot of expectations surrounding the transition: life will be better, all the past problems and frustrations will be buried, starting from scratch is a new opportunity to be happy, and so forth. In the second case, expectations are much lower: it should be fun, and the change itself is welcome, just to see how it works out. So let’s just do it!
Perhaps what shocked me most was how easy it all sounds; perhaps it’s because I’m still very much attached to the pre-1990s ideas of how transexuality should develop. In both cases, in a timespan of just a few months, two males with little or no crossdressing experience, besides an occasional dressing session during Mardi Gras (really, around here, in the 1980s, pretty much all boys got dressed up as Spanish dancers — it was the “typical” Mardi Gras costume for young boys… and most never developed crossdressing trends due to that. Most, indeed, acquired a strong aversion against crossdressing, as they found the experience deeply unsettling and humiliating), suddenly “decide” to live the rest of their lives as women, engage a doctor or two, and after a few sessions, go ahead with transition. That sounds so strange to me. I’ve been in touch with several older members of the CD community around here, some for over 15 years. Many of them live happily with their wives who are fully supportive of their crossdressing; many crossdress every day at home and go out together as women very regularly — in fact, their main circle of friends are other crossdressers, so they naturally go out with them. Even a smaller group that came late to be accepted as crossdressers by their wives don’t go beyond that stage. On the other side of the border, there are the true transexuals, who experienced a terrible life of suffering, and only after decades were finally able to go through transition; except for a handful, most of them never pass on the street with their too-male bodies, even though they are legally females and underwent all possible surgeries to improve themselves. They don’t care. They always wanted to be women — even if they are aware that they won’t be accepted beyond the community — and they’re happy and content now that they were able to leave behind their lives as males.
That’s the image I have about transition: long-lasting fights with oneself, with one’s therapists and doctors, finding obstacles and barriers everywhere, fighting for one’s rights, joining communities, then slowly picking up on crossdressing and starting to go out dressed as women for several days, then several months, and finally transitioning, going through the real life test, and so forth. Perhaps the only issue I have with some of those cases is that once they abandoned their families, friends, and former jobs, all that is left is the community, and even if they don’t become activists, they will rarely, if ever, leave the safety of the community, because that’s the only place where they get accepted without conditions.
But nowadays, as my two acquaintances show, things are quite different. None of them are part of any activist group. None go out with other fellow CDs. None have met regularly with other transexuals going through transition, although they obviously have exchanged emails and even phone calls with one or two transexuals, just to get a taste of what lies ahead of them. Decisions are made in weeks or months: one day they have bought their first wig and painted their nails for the first time, the next day they’re at the doctor telling them that they wish to transition. And the doctor says “ok, let’s run some exams”, and that’s all to it.
It’s a bit baffling for me. I suppose that I had absolutely no problem in finding a doctor, telling them that I have started crossdressing a few times per year back in 1994 or 1995 8I can’t remember), but in the past seven years, I crossdress every day, with the full permission (and very mild encouragement) of my wife. Allegedly, showing off pictures with one’s clothes is part of the process, so I’d be happy to show over a thousand pictures and almost two hundred short videos from the past seven years, and, because it’s important for them to prove I have the support of my wife, showing some pictures fully dressed with her on my side. And then I would just say, I have no history of any mental issues; I have lived in the past in dire conditions (and technically still live under the poverty line for my country, which usually shocks most people in disbelief, and have done so since 2004) and can tolerate it; I’m stubborn enough to go ahead with crazy ideas, once I’ve made my decision; where do I sign? It looks like I’m more than qualified!
But why don’t I simply do that? (I might consult a therapist just to get a hint on what kind of questions they ask, and also to see if I can get an insight about what they believe my type of gender disphoria is) Well, I think it’s mostly one of motivation. Unlike my first acquaintance, I have no “past to bury” — I’m happy with my past. I have no huge expectations about my future, either — I have been rich, I have been poor, I know how it feels either way. My own line of work is slowly getting more and more obsolete as I grow older, so I’m aware that sooner or later I will be unable to continue working like I do, but will have to switch jobs, possibly to a completely different area. And like my second acquaintance, I have a natural curiosity to see how well I could cope being a woman 24h/7 — my current aspiration is to be able to that for a whole week once (which I haven’t done since meeting my wife, back in 1997), and then think about a whole month. So that should be enough “motivation”.
However, on the other hand, I don’t really wish to discard my whole life, specially not my wife, but also keep friends and family. I like the place I live and my neighbours. While I’m not “forced” to switch jobs, I tend to enjoy the ones I have right now to the fullest, even if it’s clear that I can barely sustain myself and my wife financially. My own wife is also chronically ill — no less than three different chronical conditions — despite her youth, so I’m aware that placing another huge burden on her would be terrible. And finally, I really don’t see that I would be happier as a woman. I’m naturally happy already 🙂 Sure, I pine away when I don’t dress, but I tolerate that as I do so many things that I dislike. I’m very patient — I waited eight years until I told my wife that I was a crossdresser and that i really, seriously, needed to crossdress regularly to deal with my urges. And now I have been patiently waiting for seven years until I have her permission to go out — the irony is that I was far more afraid of that in the past, but nevertheless managed to slip out once in a while before meeting her; these days, I have the required courage to go out even on daylight, but my wife, always anxious, doesn’t want me to leave the safety of our home, and since she already has gone through several anxiety attacks (not related to my crossdressing, but mostly about her constant worries of us not having enough money to survive), I don’t want to hurt her even more. Those all are strong motivations for not transitioning; and finally, of course, as I grow older, I tend to think that I will have little more than a decade left to really enjoy being a woman: after that, I will just be “an old lady”, which is as much fun as “an old guy”, with constant pain and suffering, all wrinkled up, and no nice clothes to wear, so the prospect of throwing away everything just to enjoy a decade of fun becomes less and less appealing for me (also, hormones tend to give far less results at my age; more so because I’ve got chronic high blood pressure and would have to take much lower amounts of hormones, which would take way longer to have any effect, if at all). So a good, serious doctor or therapist would just put that on the scales and ask me: “Why bother?” and I’d answer “Why indeed?”
Instead, I start to think of myself as a late transexual who just lost her opportunity for transition. I can still go for Plan B: assuming I can persuade my wife to slowly accept that I need to take my crossdressing far further than what I currently do, there are still a few options left. I can still let my hair grow, get a feminine style, and use it in a braid when in “male mode” — it’s perfectly acceptable. I can do permanent hair removal on all my body. I can flatten my abs, surgically removing most of the fat, and that will allow me to wear women’s clothing without a corset. All these are relatively within the realm of possibilities.
But I can even go a bit further than that. Since I’m not a fan of going to the beach, nobody sees me naked except for my wife: a bit of hormone therapy to soften the skin and distribute the fat around might be good enough for me, and nobody would really notice. It’s unlikely that I’ll get big breasts due to that — my mother and most of the family, except for one aunt, are all flat-chested — but I might get from the current A cup to a B or something; not too big to raise any questions, but fun enough to get them inside a Wonderbra and see some real results. I might even get some extra silicone on the hips (not on the breats!) and, who knows, some facial feminisation surgery if hormones are not enough — all of these will not raise undue attention if I continue to wear male clothing every day. But it would make a lot of difference when wearing women’s clothes and a bit of makeup, and shaking the hair loose from a braid — it would mean an instant transformation, without taking the two hours or so that I usually need to get dressed up. And as my previous post showed, nobody notices my long fingernails. Here is another tiny secret: I do my eyebrows as well. Not to get pencil-thin eyebrows, which are out of fashion anyway in my country, but over the years, with industrious plucking, they got a bit thinner, a bit less unruly, more arched and so forth — I have them better maintained than many close female friends and family — but nobody has noticed that, either. I’ve also removed a few dark spots on the face and, again, nobody has noticed. Nobody notices anything! So I’m sure that none of the above minor surgeries, complemented with some hormones, would be noticed either…
The rest, well, I can live without it. Lovely round breasts would be immensely appealing, but those would be impossible to hide, specially during the summer. And my libido is so low that whatever is between my legs is pretty much irrelevant. This would allow me to live a “double live” — presenting a male persona for the benefit of family and friends, and being a woman whenever I choose. Who knows, I might even get a job at a hairdresser or at a cash register on the supermarket, dressed as a woman, but return to family, friends and neighbours as a guy 🙂 It’s a fun fantasy to have, and one that might actually be accomplished — it’s in the realm of possibility. Ironically, the legislation in my country, under those circumstances, would even allow me to legally change my name and gender — how cool is that? Again, since I don’t usually show my documents to my friends, nobody would notice that, either 😉
But like everything else, it remains a dream and nothing else. That doesn’t mean that I will avoid talking to a therapist about that — I will do it, sooner or later. And definitely consider permanent body hair removal, as soon as I can afford it 😉