According to my friends, there are some great aspects to being a TS woman. No painful periods for one thing, no stressful pre-menstrual symptoms, fear of getting pregnant, uncomfortable PAP tests, moodiness, tampons, sanitary pads and so much more. I've never been wholly convinced and now, four years post-op I'm even less sure.
Growing up as a teen I had the usual dysphoria so many of us experience. I hated those pubescent changes, that feeling I was being taken over by an alien force, testosterone, and forced against my will to be something I was not. I was lucky in some respects. I never grew much facial or body hair, I remained small, slim and slight. I didn't develop muscles in spite of regular exercise. With smaller feet I could borrow Mum's shoes and my tiny waist and chest size meant that I looked better in girls clothes rather than the boy's stuff I was 'supposed to wear'. Teenagers are moody and I was no exception. More exceptional perhaps was that I wanted to have kids and be a Mum. I loved babysitting (hard to believe I know) and helping neighbours with their toddlers. I loved to help them play and read to them , I was also a Sunday school helper. All this seems bizarre looking back. These days, in an era of concern about child safety, a 14 year old boy childminding might raise eyebrows. I'm grateful it was accepted that I was 'good with children'. One more reason I suppose why I trained as an Early Years teacher in College when I grew up.
Those maternal urges didn't go away. By the time I'd reached my 20's I desperately wanted a family even though my partner was a little ambivalent. As Trans women go, I've been really lucky to become a mother. I spent 10 blissful years of adult life as a proud single Mum, raising a daughter until she was grown and independent. Being a mother suited me. I enjoyed balancing work and parenthood, loved homemaking and slowly tried to better myself by training as a counsellor. Of all the things I've done, bringing up a child and making a home have been some of the most satisfying. I've experienced. I can see my feminist mother shaking her head right now: It makes me smile so much, mostly because she was such a loving caring mother herself.
I'm married now but I also have an empty nest. Nobody really prepared me for how tough that was going to be. There is that lovely whirlwind phase in romance, that first summer with your guy, the Autumn that turns relationship to a deep attachment, the first Christmas with your boyfriend, the one year anniversary that prompts you to think he might stay, having him propose, learning to be a fiancée....and at first you think only of each other, totally bound up in celebrating love. Sex is incredible, intense and just about the two of you, learning your partner's needs and having him satisfy yours. During that time I remember fleeting glimpses of a teenage yearning for permanence and commitment; a man in my life and security. It all came very rapidly for me. I'm a lucky girl. As heterosexual TS women go I've been fortunate to find a lasting partnership and enter marriage, as a wife. What took me by surprise was the companion to that emotional security; wave after wave of renewed and uncontrollable maternal feelings. Deeply in love with a man who truly cares, I found myself desperately wanting a second family and strangely weepy about my inability to conceive.
Being TS, I'm infertile. Infertility can be one of the nasties of being Trans, it never goes away. While every other newly married woman seems either to have a baby or be expecting, I most certainly am not. I've wept so often for my unborn children; rivers of tears stretching back to childhood.
My hubby is all too aware of my ups and downs, especially my mood swings. I had thought it was just a side effect of being TS. There were patterns though. My husband talks teasingly about the effects of the moon. In the end, I chose to investigate further. There are many period tracking apps out there, I happened to try Clue. At first I mainly recorded irritability, stress and mood. What surprised me was how it confined itself to two or three days per month; days when everybody annoys me; I feel like venting off or gloom overcomes me. Shortly after, happiness returns but also a grumbly tummy, alternate diarrhoea and constipation and strangely a renewed interest in sex. Beginning to track all else sexual I began to find that my sex drive soars mid month only to tail off again toward the end. Why is this? Though I have a vagina, I don't have ovaries or a uterus as far as I know. I no longer need sanitary pads, a three month long post-op 'period' was my only experience of blood stained undies and bedsheets.
Are my symptoms somatic, caused by hormones or even wishful thinking? I'm really not sure. Mentioning it to my consultant and my doctor, they shrugged their shoulders and were non-commital. My endocrinologist explained that we know too little about how hormones affect our behaviour, in particular for those with re-assigned genders. Medical knowledge concentrates on how they affect sex organs, during pregnancy, lactation and in pubescent changes. We are much more vague when it comes to the mind. I do know however that my cyclical mood changes have been there since adolescence and were no more welcome then than they are now.
Now I have an app that warns me when PMS is about to happen. Before, it was my husband who sensed my mood but didn't comment for fear of 'getting his head bitten off'. Now I'm more relaxed about it and philosophical. I deal with it better, knowing that it's just a couple of days. I'm aware that keeping active and even sex will help relieve tension and that relief will come. Sadly I also get warned that my fertile window is coming up. I wish. I get aroused much more easily, initiate sex more often and come better but I do know that I won't conceive. My broodiness remains; a real instinctive desire to start a new family and to create new life. The urge to make a baby with a man I know would make a good father. It seems cruel. The only other women who understand it are other tearfully infertile females too.
So no, not being 'on' every 29 days isn't so much a blessing as some might think. I'd give anything for the assurance that my body was still able to conceive, even though I haven't this time. In any case, I get the pains and the PMS without the bleeding, not much of an advantage. I experience the ups and downs without the compensating option of a successful and wanted pregnancy. Like most infertile women, I would embrace morning sickness, discomfort and tiredness to have a family and to give my husband a son or daughter. Maternal instincts are always there and I can't control them. I didn't ask for this yet I know I have to live with it and get on with my life.
Fortunately I'm not a radical feminist otherwise I'd probably hate myself and have never completed transition. A sex positive feminist, I believe very firmly in a woman's right to assert her sexuality. I believe she should do it in whatever way she wishes, be it celibacy or polyamory. I accept that TS women are women, period, if you pardon the pun - If like me, you grew up a girl, it is difficult to imagine yourself otherwise. My husband still marvels that I knew so little about men and had to learn how to arouse him. My sister said recently, 'How can anyone see you as anything but a woman, that's how you've always been.'
I'll end there. I hope that I've conveyed how tough this is. I'm not asking for sympathy but insights from others might be helpful. I have no idea how many other TS women experience infertility or period like symptoms this way. It can be quite a lonely place to be. Please let me know if you feel th same.
HUGGS, Jane xx