Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Transition all the Way?

Sorry to say this but as a woman I’ve just about had enough of housekeeping. It’s the same old chore, week in week out, all the constant cleaning, sweeping and tidying up. It never ever seems to end. And there’s another job I hate, window cleaning. I just hate cleaning windows I end up doing it almost everyday. I put up with all of this whilst battling with some virus or other, it’s almost every week. I’ve been doing this for so long, certainly since the early 1990’s. When it began, it was all so new and different. Everything was fine and I quite enjoyed some of the chores. Now I’m convinced that it’s time to transition, BACK as it happens, back to where I started from, or almost.

Don't like Windows, nothing against Toshiba :)

By now you might have realised that I’m probably NOT talking about gender transition. Apart from a brief flirtation with a Commodore I began my life computing with an Apple Mac. Back in College, the best way to get your work typed out neat and tidy short of paying a typist was to head down to the orchard. The ‘Orchard’ was a room in college equipped with about 30 apple computers, a cranky dot matrix printer and a loudly chattering daisy wheel where you had to buy your own wheel and ribbon if you wanted to print! I bought a 5.25” floppy disk, learned how to use Wordstar and hey presto I was computing. Sure you had to go onto the College mainframe if you wanted to do anything serious but who on earth would want to read a student assignment on green and white lined paper!

It wasn’t long however before I was lured away through many attractively open windows (well actually only a few at a time - it was only version 3.0 after all!) into the world of the PC and Microsoft. There was always MS-DOS which could run my beloved Wordstar if all else failed but Windows soon took over my life. I thought that I had transitioned once and for all and everything was fine. Now I’m not so sure. Like I said, I have all those problems with those housekeeping chores. Maybe I had made the wrong choice. Was transitioning to a Windows PC such a good idea?

My daughter bought a Mac Book Pro recently at the start of her sophomore year and I was so impressed. That was the beginning of the disenchantment for me. Of late my blogs have gotten way too tedious to write, blogging on my Windows netbook has tried my patience to the limits too many times recently, spending too much downtime while it deals with it’s own problems, fights malware and generally slows down whilst doing things I don’t understand. So, from now on I’ve decided what I want to do. Future blogs will be written and uploaded from my new iPad. The downside might be having to learn how to use new software on a new system. Forgive me if I don’t blog for the next week or too :)

But now the all important question, will I transition all the way? Will I move to living the ‘i’ life 24/7 and never go back to Windows? Possibly not, I’ll still need my PC to transfer data to my new iPad, I can’t afford to buy a Mac Book as well.

Are there any parallels between gender dysphoria and dissatisfaction with your computer operating system? Maybe not at least not on any deep and meaningful level. However it did said me wondering. As it so happens, I’ve always felt the way I do now gender wise and I’ve pretty well always known that I was unhappy to be a girl in a boy’s body. I’m a trans woman. I’ve been transitioning for 7 years and am eagerly looking forward to completing my transition and getting on with the rest of my life. But I’m aware that it’s not the same for everybody and I do know that: it’s okay to NOT be sure, to keep on both modes of existence while you make sure, to wait while you save enough money, to wait while deciding who you really are inside, to hesitate while you discover more or even, shock horror, to find that you are happy seeing things from both sides. I’ve worked alongside many people from the LGBT community and I do know that I welcome the diversity and nature of who people in our rainbow community really are.

Robyn-Jane xx

Saturday, September 17, 2011

New Semester - Go Stealth or Carry a Torch?

It’s a brand new semester in College. I always liked the beginning of a new year, new books, new shoes, new working clothes, new faces and a chance to start over. Maybe I got hooked and possibly that’s why I’m still in Education as a full time day job years after I graduated High School. In some ways it’s sad, like we’re the ones who got left behind after everyone else ventured out into the glaring light of the ‘real’ world.

Actually it’s not quite like that, sorry if you already knew. I’m a Teacher’s Assistant in a Community College. We see everyone here, our courses tend to be vocational, I deal mainly with young people for whom High School didn’t quite work out, who want a more ‘hands on’ approach to learning. My students tend to age between 16 and 18. On the face of things not an ideal group to work with on my first job after starting my transition! My students tend to say exactly what they think and the observe very closely. Are 16 year olds programmed to root out difference and expose and ridicule it?

That’s how it seemed six years ago when I began working here, in the early stages of electrolysis.  I had only just started HRT and was living full time. It should have been awful but I’m eternally thankful that it wasn’t. Yes there were complaints about restroom use, the inevitable use of the ‘T’ word, so many intrusive questions, requests for the birth certificate I didn’t possess and difficulties with time off for medical appointments. But actually the overwhelming majority of people were okay. I was puzzled. A long time female friend summed it up for me:

‘You walk, talk and behave like any other woman. Why are you so surprised that people accept you as one? You ARE female, I’ve always thought of you like that, why should you pretend to be anyone else other than what you are inside? That would be stupid!’

That made me look around me and think. I had spent my whole life comparing myself to a blueprint of what I thought everyone expected a man or a woman to be. In my mind I emphasized physical appearance but I’d been ignoring the obvious. Your gender is not the clothes you wear or the way you do your makeup, it isn’t a function of what people call you, it is simply who you are. No one can make you male or female if you are not, nobody can force you to be something against your will.

It was a revolution, and it allowed me to carry on doing what I needed to, to do my job, to be a Mom, to live and get on with my life. Okay, so, it wasn't easy, but I fnally had confidence that people might notice me for who I am, or rather NOT notice me because I was just like any other woman around the place.

That was the beginning of wondering if one day I could just melt into the background and go stealth.  It seemed like an ideal to aim for, something to aspire to.  Last year it became pretty much a reality.

At one time, I think that that is where I would have left things.  But then last year I also had a couple of gay students in class. The College prides itself on preparing students for the world of work.  Employment law gets discussed a lot, diversity, equality and attitudes.  Debate gets pretty heated around those subjects and I found myself uncomfortably close to discussions about issues close to my heart.  I saw that the Gay kids who are out come in for a lot of teasing, much of it good natured but incessant and demoralising all the same.  I found myself questioning and challenging others about why they said what they did in order to defend them.  I realised that stealth or no, you can't stand by and be an observer.  Sometimes it must be fairly clear what my position is.

I know that some of my Gay and Lesbian colleagues in the education system have no problem with standing up for others, with carying a torch for LGBT rights.  I have to be honest, the thought of being like that has sometimes scared me.  I'm way from being able to carry a torch. I have feared being 'outed' when in reality I'm 'out' anyway by just being me and living and working full time as a woman. Strange isn't it?  No matter how sacred I am however, I'm quite clear that I don't want to see others put down because of their sexual preferences or gender. So what do I do?

There are no clear answers to this one are there?  I would love to know how others in the Trans community cope with this.  I suspect that there are as many answers as there are people :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mama Mia & the Promise of a Second 'Date'

Prince of Wales Theatre (Photo: Beth Ward)
Mama Mia! I spent the Thursday evening of August 2nd in the Prince of Wales Theatre London, enjoying this musical with my teenage daughter. Mama Mia is the perfect Mother/Daughter evening out; great sing-along songs, funny romantic plot line and the dream combo of 3 teenage girlfriends and their hen night drama as well as 3 older women linked by their membership of a former girl-power band. Magic! 

A night out in London's West End on a balmy late summer evening was just what I needed, a great way to relax and take my mind of that 'All Important Date', my GIC appointment the following morning.

After we left the theatre, we wandered around the West End, Leicester & Trafalgar Square, it was so lovely not to have to think. I wanted to be really tired before I went to bed. I had spent far too many sleepless nights worrying about the following day: September 2nd.  
'Mama Mia, here I go again'.

By the time I was on the tube (London's Subway) the following day, deep breathing and relaxation just weren't working. I felt so sick. In spite of my best efforts to relax there were words and phrases from last night's show that kept sparking off thoughts about what was to come.  This would be the fifth time I had had to sit down in front of a medical practitioner and explain why on earth I should want to change gender when I was born male.
‘I apologise if it makes you feel bad, seeing me so tense, no self confidence...’
In spite of all the agonizing about what to wear I had just gone as myself, wearing the same sort of dress and makeup I normally wear for work, adding a pair of heels because I feel more confident when I'm 'taller'. I'd taken along an album of photos taken during the 7 years since I began my transition as well as my Gender Recognition Certificate and a number of academic certificates I'd got in my own name. I even had my ID badge from work. I suppose that what I fear always more than anything else is being 'invalidated', being told that although I consider myself to be a woman that I somehow don't quite make the grade. It made me wonder whether most trans men and women are stuck with always feeling less adequate and less 'valid' than their natal counterparts or whether we should ever allow ourselves to be invalidated by how others perceive us.

'Standing calmly at the crossroads, no desire to run...'

'Is there a man out there? Someone to heed my prayer?'

The hardest part was the waiting. Isn't it always? Do you remember your first date and how you felt waiting if you were there first? Even if you had the confidence that he or she would meet you, you still didn't know what to expect.

It was as well that I took my photographs and documents, he did want to see them, though it felt so strange having to provide evidence that I actually do live and work day in day out as a woman. Normally I just do, I just 'am'. I'm not used to being asked to justify who I know I know myself to be, it felt odd. There were the inevitable questions about my childhood, 'Have you always felt this way?', 'How long for?', 'How did you cope at school'. It's painful to talk about these things at the best of times. It's not easy to talk about puberty as being that hateful time when you felt you were being dragged against your will into being someone you were not and began to hate.
What I wasn't prepared for were the questions about sex. They were sensitively put but so difficult to answer. I'm not embarrassed about discussing sex but I find it hard to describe how it made me feel and would find it even harder to write about. I also felt guilty and ashamed admitting that I had to fake orgasm for so many years and put my ex through the heartache of thinking she couldn't conceive. It took a long time to get over the feeling that I was cheating on her because I had to imagine that I was a woman being made love to by a man while we had sex.

I felt like a limp rag by the time it was all over, but I did feel that I had done justice to who I am and how I felt. I was so relieved to be told there would be a second 'DATE', even if it is with another guy and I have to wait 6 months to get it!