Time was when I could never be naked, or wouldn't allow myself to be, even in private. It seems odd looking back but showers and baths always saw me wearing underwear or swimming things. It's strange I know but when you grow up transgender and hate the sight of your body parts it's a way of coping, of getting on with life as best you can. Intimacy was possible only in my head, in a sort of double, fantasy life where I was just another ordinary girl like anyone else. In my dream world boys were exciting and nice. As I grew older through my teens, the thought of intimacy with one was arousing and lovely. The reality was very far from it. Fantasies always had to end with the return to real life.
As a girl you crave the validation of your prettiness and beauty. You look around for signs that boys fancy you, that they admire you and want you. I could have none of that. The most that I could hope for from a boy is that he would be my friend. The worst that I could expect was to be beaten up for being who I was. None of this serves to build confidence in yourself, your looks, your self image and your body. I grew up feeling that it had let me down and I pretty well knew that nobody could put things right. What was the point of carrying on? At first there seemed to be a half pretty girl staring back at me from the mirror. Once the ravages of hormones began to take their toll, I gave up: There was no way anyone would see me as attractive or desirable.
Fast forward to much more recent times. It took a best friend to point out that most women of 'our age' are not supermodels and that attractiveness and sexual attraction do not require you to present yourself as a fashion model. My best friend was the first person I came out to. Much as I disbelieved her, I took her assertion that one day men would want to date me as a talisman on my journey; a sort of distant beacon of hope. I remember that we bought perfume together in Leicester on a shopping trip one weekend; Estée Lauder's 'Beyond Paradise'. I didn't imagine making much use of it. Who on earth would I possibly attract and what on earth would I do if he wanted to come home with me after a date, for a 'coffee'?
A fear of tactile intimacy has pervaded my love life (such as it was) over the last eight years. It has run through every amorous encounter like one of those ornamental rope barriers they have at functions or events. It separated me from natal girls who had the choice of saying 'yes' or 'no'. There was a fear of roving hands that might find their way down over my bottom as we kissed or to other places far more worrying. For a long time I could never bring myself to tell anyone about my gender history. These days apparently that sort of misrepresentation can land you in trouble with the law. After discussing it with my therapist I began to be more open with guys but it didn't really help. Once you have revealed yourself to be a pre-op Trans woman you open yourself up to a whole world of stereotypes and objectification. You are desirable but as a particular type of girl. Porn videos would have guys believe that you're absolutely 'gagging for it' and 'you're in their area'! You are a rare novelty to be enjoyed, not someone to love and to cherish. Bye bye love.
Having craved intimacy with guys for so long I felt disappointed. I don't know about anyone else but none of this served to make me feel validated or attractive. Having a guy want you solely for what's under your clothes doesn't do anything for you as a girl. It doesn't make you feel valued or lovely, it doesn't make you feel desirable or respected. Many many years after dreaming about life coming right for me I was still no nearer feeling whole as a person. I had intimacy of a sort, forced nakedness and a feeling of being used. If anything I felt worse than ever. Look through my song lyrics and you'll find it everywhere:
"I don't want you here, so scared to feel you close, can't take no more hits from you can't take another dose."
"Craving for your one night stand and crazy 'bout this girl, if what you want's the best of both, guy I'm noT your GirL."
So what about the here and now? Post-op since April 11 last year, the new me has had a very different experience. From the moment I went for a shower in hospital after compression bandages were removed, I've loved my body. Ever since then I've been happy to stand in front of mirrors naked and to be nude. In summer last year I had the divine experience of being totally undressed in the sand dunes with my boyfriend and it felt fab. I've even been surprised to hear myself saying 'yes' to the 'Naked Bike Ride' through Manchester this year and I feel totally okay being unclothed in the presence of others. As for intimacy, one orgasm after another has changed how I feel about that. Now I can be intimate and tactile with my boyfriend, bathed in the glow of sweet desire and mutual love. It is such a liberating experience to feel one with my body at long last and to be happy in my own skin. My fantasy existence and my real life have merged and left one person; a whole woman, content with how she is, complete at last.
The strangest thing of all is that it feels pretty much how I imagined it would in my fantasies, only WAY WAY better: Better for being real without any come down and the return to 'real life'. This is 'real life' now and I ain't never going back!