Thursday, 31 July 2014

trauma

Every fragment of worry, guilt, fear and shame has been completely eradicated from my system. My appetite for a scientific explanation for the way I am has had to satisfy itself with little bits of scattered information about brain scans that lead inconclusively to nowhere for the moment. But I am still hopeful that proof will be found.

I won’t hold my breath in anticipation however.

When I am out I feel good and am at peace with the world. Whether I’m in church or at the mall or in a coffee shop or at the grocery store, I am at peace with myself when dressed as Joanna. She is the person I would be if I were a woman; a variation on myself that dresses and speaks and gestures just a little differently from the male me.

I am also at peace being a male and enjoy that role as well. He is my foundation and the person I have learnt to be all my life. I would not want to give that up to be Joanna full time and I know that at my core now.

I suppose I needed to reflect on transition for a while and during the year that N and I were apart I seriously considered it but the answer became a solid no. Not only is it too late in my life to embark on such a journey but I am fundamentally not a full blown transsexual. I am a man who dresses as a woman and expresses his femininity in a very unusual way.

I used to focus on how bizarre my behaviour was because I was viewing it from the prism of how I had been taught to consider people like me; as freaks. Well I can honestly tell you that I am a normal human being, albeit with foibles, who happens to be a little different.

In essence I am back at the place where I began; a little boy who liked to wear his mother’s clothes and enjoyed it without reservations.

I recall reading recently about whether childhood trauma could create the transgendered condition. N brought this up with me the other night and it was referred to it in yesterday’s post from Rolling Stone. Having reflected on my past and considering the numerous accounts by others I have read, I have come to the conclusion that it takes more than that to reproduce it. The established consensus among the experts is also that trauma is not enough.

My trauma harkens back to being told to stop something natural which suddenly became taboo. I still see people struggling with what they call crossdressing addiction and sinning and I ask myself why they struggle. What is it that they think is so wrong and so distressing? But then I think that they probably ingested the same toxins that I once did.

After a difficult month apart, N and I have reconciled but I still see this period of my life as a reset. It’s the beginning of the peaceful phase where I revel in the balance and perspective I have found.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Causes of transgenderism?

Here is a very short article from Rolling Stone written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely:

"What causes people to be transgender in the first place? The prevailing theories used to be psychosocial: That early traumas like dysfunctional family dynamics or childhood sexual abuse were responsible. "That is absolutely not true at all," says Dr. Johanna Olson, medical director of the Transgender Clinic at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. "But I still get people in my clinic who are trying to unravel what the traumatic incident was, that caused their kid to be trans."

Rather, a growing body of research is pointing to biological origins. The 2008 discovery by Australian researchers of a genetic variation in transgender women—their receptor gene for the sex hormone testosterone was longer, making it less efficient at communicating signals—set off speculation that insufficient uptake of male hormones in utero contributed to a "more feminised brain." And the brains of trans people do look different. Recent Spanish imaging studies have shown that the white matter of untreated trans men look much like those of biological males, and that the patterns of trans women's white matter fell about halfway between those of biological male and female control groups. But it's premature to draw conclusions from those studies, warns Olson, since "those parts of the brain are shaped by performance and experience," and so may be a product of nurture, not nature. And despite the big genetic finding, it's unclear what precise role genetics plays, since a recent survey of identical twins found that only in 20 percent of cases did both twins turn out transgender, despite having identical DNA.

"Trying to identify causes, whether they be genetic, hormonal, or something else entirely, those studies are underway," says Olson. "The question is, what contributes to the formation of gender identity? It's really complex."

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

choice

Stana's post from today had me reflecting.

No one chooses to be transsexual or transgendered and it is simply thrust upon you at an early age. With that knowledge it's up to you to sink or swim. I have chosen the latter.

It's interesting that much of the prejudice thrust upon the gender variant presupposes choice. People who are the most ardent attackers take the position that one can repair themselves.

However if one understands this condition to be likely a mixture of nurture and nature (with predominance on the latter in my view) the damage that can be done to the person can be substantial. We all know that a "pray the gay away" approach does not work but many people in the general population do not subscribe to this view. If the young person ingests the message that they can repair themselves you are sending two messages:

1) If you fail it's because you're not trying hard enough

2) Being the way you are is undesirable

When the young person takes these implied truths to heart there is no way the outcome will be good. Upon having failed to defeat their condition they become disheartened and the impact on the self esteem will be deeply felt.

I know these statements to be incorrect but it wasn't always the case and it took many decades to undo the harm.

Waiting for society to catch up to us is not a viable option but instead we should choose to embrace whatever position we occupy on the transgendered spectrum and claim it fully. Hopefully by having people see well adjusted and dignified people, the tide will slowly turn.

One of the unfortunate setbacks in recent years has been the clinical acceptance by the establishment of the work of Ray Blanchard. His approach contrasts sharply with the sympathetic and very humane direction which Harry Benjamin and Anne Vitale had adopted. This has not impacted the layman but has resulted in a more negative and less empathetic model which unfortunately ended up in the DSM.

This model is being slowly dismantled but there is still work to be done.



Sunday, 27 July 2014

what all of this work was for

My life has been a model of self discipline.

Born the eldest in a family of six children to a kind but slightly distant intellectual father and emotional mother; I was expected to conform. We grew up in a loving home and went to church every Sunday. This is what one did in deeply devout and overwhelmingly Catholic Spain.

From a young age I knew I was different but I hid it. I followed the script and tried my best to live my religion. I believed in the dogma I was taught but I was also given a critical mind which made me question the things that made no sense to me. I needed to analyse and make sense of the world around me. As I grew older that critical thinking became part of my modus operandi and I reconciled the teaching I received with my burgeoning sense of logic and reason.

My biggest challenge was my gender dysphoria.

I couldn't grasp or understand the feelings I had or why they wouldn't subside or simply disappear. I don't smoke, drink socially, have never tried drugs and never had a rebellious teen phase. I married in my early thirties still a virgin although not due to lack of interest. I am a very disciplined person.

And yet this monster eluded me. No matter how hard I tried it was always there whether as a dull roar or tempestuous beckoning to raid my mother's closet. Readers of this blog know that it all gloriously exploded in my mid forties but it needed to and so began my exploration into something I wanted desperately to disown.

I have learnt much over the last 8 years and know more about this subject than anyone I frequent or call a friend and I am very much at peace with it. Knowing the kind of person I am I know I was born with it and in that knowledge I can rest calm and be myself.I need not disown something which belongs to me and forms part of my nature. People who don't like the way I am I can't do anything about. Siblings or friends who are uncomfortable seeing me in female garb I can't help. I can only help myself to be the best person I can be while wholly embracing my transgendered nature.

In this blog I have used terminology to categorize stages of dysphoria but in truth it's very difficult to do that. Not only is each person unique and different but many circumstancial elements play into their existence. Trying to predict why someone transitions, does not transition or detransitions is like playing the lottery. People evolve and life is by its very nature a messy affair.

If I've learnt anything during my personal reflection and research over the last number of years is to not try and predict anything. Just be happy in your skin.

I did all of this homework because I needed to understand things for myself. Even if I have run into a dead end on the scientific front I can at least take solace in the fact that I have gotten to know myself much better.

Now on to the next chapter.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

switch hitter no more

Well Andre Pejic has finally made the move to become Andreja.

I suppose it was not unexpected because someone that feminine had to eventually make a decision and its not an easy thing to exist between both binaries. At 22 years of age she has had the GRS surgery to fully complete her transformation; and just as well because she barely passed for a male even when she tried.

What I did like about Andrej is how comfortable he was in his own skin and how much that challenged those people who felt uncomfortable with a human being who dared to challenge gender norms. I chuckled every time he was interviewed or made a catwalk appearance and showed people the strength of his resolve.

Of course in the background there was a gender conflicted individual searching for a final identity and Andrej was really more woman than man; I would venture to say much more. But during that brief time in the spotlight as a switch hitter she had me wondering how far she could carry living as a gender variant celebrity.

A story like hers is very much one of our time. The last time something like this happened it was the early 1960's and April Ashley was being infamously outed after becoming an haute couture runway sensation. She had hoped to stay stealth but never managed to. Needless to say, she would never have been permitted to model women’s clothes as a male bodied person during her era.

But we have come a long way since then and the barriers that were there for April Ashley were not there for Andrej Pejic. For that, many transgendered people can be a little bit grateful.


Friday, 25 July 2014

plus ca change.....

I’ve pushed a proverbial reset button and have given this place a fresh new coat of white paint.

I will be 52 years old this fall and I am in partial overhaul mode once again but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I have been doing a number of resets over the last seven years so why not one more.

It’s always interesting to look back and analyse the thought processes that you went through at different stages of your life. Things that were sacrosanct are perhaps less so today and what you were willing to live with then does not work as well for you now.

If there is one constant in life it’s change.

I have my work to fall back on and my son’s needs are still there. My daughter (freshly turned 16)continues her journey towards independence and she is ungluing herself from her mother and I which is not a bad thing. Both of them need to become more autonomous after being raised in a style that differs much from the one my parents used.

During my growing years we spent time outside and our parents called us in for supper or when it became dark. They assumed we were all right playing with our friends for hours. Sometimes things happened but mostly they didn’t and somehow we survived.

This is the era of bicycle helmets and safety standards but also the era of texting behind the wheel and of instant social media gratification. I heard the story on the news last night about the woman who stole a very unique looking dress from a store and having her identity discovered after she foolishly posted a new profile picture of herself wearing her newly pilfered item of clothing. The police came knocking on her door only hours later. It seems the shop owner had simply put out the social media equivalent of an all points bulletin and it paid off for him. Someone had recognized the dress and snitched.

I myself am not on Facebook or twitter or Instagram and that’s fine by me. I just had nothing meaningful to post and found the banality I saw from others to be sometimes irritating. I also did not want the pressure of keeping my page active so that people thought I was still alive by taking a snapshot of my lunch or posting what concert I was attending at that very moment.

This blog will have to suffice for now.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

no "one size fits all"

Walt Heyer seems like a decent and genuine fellow. He runs a website called sexchangeregret where he highlights the dangers of having GRS without having the proper information and guidance. He himself had the surgery and reverted to living as a male.

Thorin25 is the online handle of a minister who is healing from, what he has called, a crossdressing addiction. I have posted a couple of times on his site my views on the subject.

As I understand it, both have had conversions in large part due to their religious convictions.

We know there are people who have had GRS and are very content with their lives just as there are others who crossdress and are also happy and balanced individuals. Having GRS when your life is in turmoil or you have unresolved personal issues is likely one of the worst things you could do. For others who have reflected and pondered the question at great length it has been the panacea that has brought them internal peace and resolution. Conversely, the practice of crossdressing to help manage gender dysphoria can be just the ticket for those of us who see GRS as a less desirable option.

I myself won’t be having GRS but have contacts and friends who have and they are perfectly happy with their decision decades later. Just as I know crossdressers who are also happy and have found a balance.

I think the best thing is to heed the advice of others, learn from their mistakes and realize that the reasons their decisions did not work for them need not be the same ones that apply to you. It’s how you manage your life that counts and while counsel can be and often is useful, there is no substitute for making a decision based on your own process of reflection.

When I was undergoing gender therapy they never told me what to do but simply questioned me about my thought process and made me reflect on the things I had taken as gospel. They never told me what to think or do.

Ultimately if either transition or regular crossdressing are beneficial to you it will be revealed through the impact these decisions have on your life. If you are more content, fulfilled and psychologically balanced then you know you have done the right thing.

As a practicing Catholic I am not convinced that this is as much a religious issue as much as a matter of mental health. Genuine cases of gender dysphoria require management and, for some individuals, this sometimes means gender transition. While I would advocate that option as a last resort, I don't think God would punish you for tending to a birth defect you did not ask for.

Walt Hayer

the art of feminine presentation

I feel I have become quite good at my overall female presentation.

When I was young I would never express myself in any manner, other than behind closed doors in my room, that would give clues towards my having any interest in cross gender expression. Even the innocent idea of going out for Halloween in drag was rejected for fear that I would be seen to enjoy it.

I have asked myself over the years if the way I now express Joanna is really the way I want to be all of the time. Is this the real me or a pretend act that I put on to be able to blend in as a woman in public?

I am not sure I can answer that but it may in fact be a bit of both.

The socialisation that one is exposed to means that your baseline presentation is male. You become accustomed to the habitual behaviour that is appropriate for your gender and learn perhaps to suppress anything that falls outside of that. Therefore, after many decades of practice you no longer know what your real baseline truly is.

I do know that when I present as Joanna there is a natural inclination in me to imitate the female role models of my life. My mother, my sisters, screen and television actresses which I have admired have all had a hand in giving me visual and auditory cues that have helped shape my presentation as a woman. I favour certain clothes and makeup that fit the image I want to portray to the world.

I suppose we all do that as people in that we have an image to sell to others. However, entering into the territory of the other gender is something very few people do and, aside from movie or stage actors, most people never even try. For many people, there is simply too much taboo attached to straying too far from gender norms.

Eliminating my own road blocks has allowed me to hone a presentation through the use of makeup, clothing and mannerisms. But in addition I have been able to gesture and speak the way I need and desire to without feeling I am failing to measure up to a standard that never suited me perfectly.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

my Sunday routine

The way I am living my life is making it easier to manage my dysphoria and I have developed routines that I very much like. One of them is my somewhat regular attendance at the 8:00 AM Mass at the Notre Dame Basilica on Sunday mornings which will now become a more constant feature of my life.

There is a woman in her sixties named Janet who I have befriended and after the service we proceed to the Starbucks for a coffee and a chat. We talk about nothing and everything and it’s a pleasant way to kick-start the day.

Over the years, I have become less religious but increasingly spiritual. Religion is the formal practice of spirituality but there is much in that formality that I do not like and the black and white dogmatic elements on which each religion hinges its existence suit me less and less as I age. I prefer to subscribe to the ten commandment basics but I admit to still finding the solemnity of the Mass to be to my liking.

The basilica is ornate and has an impressive altar which harks back to the days when the province of Quebec was very much controlled and guided by the church. Those days are gone and the service now receives a smattering of tourists along with the regulars who sit at the same pew week after week.

As I sit in the church as Joanna I am filled with the sense that it doesn’t matter very much what wrapping I am in.
Notre Dame Basilica

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

love in its simplest form

Love means different things to different people. It is not a black and white entity but a feeling that is shaped by our nurturing and our own internal set of standards. It often includes expectations and criteria that we use to define it and to know when we think we are experiencing it.

In its simplest form however I think that love should about respecting the other person and doing for them the kinds of things we would like to see done for us. It’s about being happy with our own insides and not needing the other person but wanting them in our lives because they enrich it. If both partners strive to care for the other with little expectation in return the formula works.

Love includes self sacrifice, discomfort and tolerating human behaviour that is often less than exemplary because we are naturally flawed by our very natures.

When you know you have the real thing you should hold on for dear life to it. It’s just not an easy commodity to find.

Monday, 21 July 2014

road trip

I have planned a very short trip as Joanna. Only a one stay in a hotel really but it will be the first time I will ever take a trip entirely as a woman in my life. It’s not an earth shattering event by any means but I thought it would be an interesting thing to try.

It won’t be a long drive because I don’t want to bother with much road time. I want to enjoy the visit as much as possible. For this reason I chose Ottawa as a destination. Its relatively close to Montreal, scenic and has plenty of museums to entertain you.

Although I have dressed as Joanna during previous trips, this will be the first time I travel exclusively with a female wardrobe.

As I said, nothing earth shattering but something that I have always wanted to try. Well now I am and it’s slated for early August.


my little addiction

I fear I’ve become a little addicted to this blog.

It’s been a combination of journal, gender theory presentation and steam blowing exercise. When I go back and read the first entries I know the tone has changed and my reasons for beginning it are not quite the same as for now continuing.

There are countless blogs out there and I don’t want this one to just be about chronicling my life. In other words, I don’t want this to be a Facebook equivalent. I will leave that to others.

I am interested in what this condition does to people’s lives; how it shapes their reality and the things they do to adapt. I am intrigued by its origins and, in trying to understand myself, hopefully bring some perspective to others who are also searching for answers.

It’s not about a cure but about life management. It’s always about life management really.

I had been thinking about taking a short sabbatical from writing but I find that I cannot. It has become a little crutch for me now and, in good times and bad, it will continue as long as I have words that come to me.

Maybe the last few entries have been disjointed but the entries often reflect a state of mind. They reflect where I am that day and we all have good days and bad. Such is the nature of our existence.


Sunday, 20 July 2014

be yourself

I've had enough of bending myself into a pretzel. This is why where I am is so freeing.

At first it felt like I was losing the battle to be the quissential male, the dutiful son, the faithful husband and father. But somewhere in there you get lost.

No amount of prayer can help you and God does not remove your plight from your shoulders. Now I realize that I can only do what I can do.

Losing the battle to become a normal man has become winning the war to be who I have always been inside. That may not be a woman but it is not a stereotypical male either.

I have forgiven myself for failing to measure up to something that was never in the cards for me; and that forgiveness washes over me like a warm soothing shower of grace.

Everyone will be a little displeased but that is not your fault. It is not their fault either, however, since they are a product of the same socialization that made you feel you were failing to measure up. Now I measure myself against my own standards.

I am a good person. I am intelligent, well educated and well read. I provide for my children and for my ex wife. I do my job well and am respected in my field. However in failing to defeat my gender dysphoria and in giving in to its demands I have freed myself from a self imposed prison.

I now move forward respecting the integrity of my personhood with a renewed vigour and strength I never knew I possessed. It is in adversity that we find our essence and our core.

It feels odd now to think back to the young man who threw everything in the bin in disgust. That person thankfully no longer exists and I am certain that if I had allowed that state to continue I would be in an unspeakable place at this moment.

There is nothing more therapeutic than simply being yourself and in that act of simplicity you can discover the person you thought you lost long ago.



Saturday, 19 July 2014

resignation

I'm currently re organizing my life a little. I'm taking stock of everything that's gone past and putting my thoughts in perspective.

If I were going to transition this would be the right time to do it. I'm on my own, my kids are almost grown and my company would give me the green light provided I had the fortitude to withstand the scrutiny of all those people who've known me as a male for decades.

Transition, however, is not for me. I am comfortable in my skin as a transgender person and while it's far from a perfect existence, there is no shame in having your brain reside somewhere between both binaries. I am happy and realistic about things and understand how life weaves its twists and turns and always surprises.

I will visit my friend at home next week and try and speak to him about what's been happening at work and in my life and chat about the weather. His wife has asked us not to ask him what comes next. There is no next; there remains only pain management through self administered morphine. I am brought back to when my father was dying of cancer and we could do was wait and try to ease his discomfort.

When I was last at the hospital we stared at each other for a minute and I could see he knew. He had that look of resignation that comes with full acceptance.

There was no panic or fear in his eyes but just a steady glare that spoke volumes to me.

Friday, 18 July 2014

the weight of expectation

I am highlighting an excerpt from the pages of a crossdressing male who calls himself Ruthie:

“Like a lot of men, I have questioned my dressing against the role which society expect a man to play. You see, unfortunately the old stigma is still lurking in the shadows of hypocritical people, who love to try and hurt people like us with venomous comments, while hiding behind a confident disguise covering their own insecure small minded lives. These are the very kind of minority who will never go that far in life on their own and they choose to criticise rather than acknowledge that no two people are alike and can do something different, as well as being happy doing it. So the answer is easy really, STUFF society and what they think. You have one life, so live it and enjoy dressing for whatever reason you do it for. Don't feel guilty, don't go and fling your clothes away and don't let the wife use it as an excuse to divorce you, as she is probably jealous that you look better than she does anyway. Enjoy yourselves; you are not harming anything or anyone. Being true to yourself is the best life plan to follow”

This bio statement reminded me of how I once measured my cross gender expression against the expectations placed upon me as a male and how hard I was being on myself for simply doing something that came naturally to me.

Here Ruthie gets it right.

Ruthie and I are not the same. Her site includes photos which show she is more a provocative dresser and likely is more on the fetish side of the spectrum. She describes in her bio that she began young and enjoys the sensual aspects of dressing. There is nothing wrong with that.

In being true to her own nature she has found a formula that works for her. Maybe she dresses once a month and goes to a club and then goes back to a normal life as a husband and father. The intrinsic message is that so many of us no matter where we lie on the transgender spectrum have spent countless hours fighting our own natures in order to comply with what others think is right. There is no objective right here however and in hurting no one with your activity you need not be ashamed or feel guilty.

No one understands why some children become crossdressers or transsexuals but if this is the life path chosen for you then you must follow it because fighting against something uselessly serves no purpose; most especially if that something harms no one.

In trying to avoid some discomfort for others and meet the weight of societal expectation, we shouldn’t need to harm ourselves in the process.


missed my routine

I was away on business for a couple of days and I got a frantic email from my neighbour regarding my car. The city of Montreal had been doing some work in front of my domicile and had somehow arranged to have a large tree branch fall directly on top of it and crack the windshield plus cause a couple of dents on the hood.

This is the same car which has to be handed back to Volkswagen since my 4 year lease is up. Needless to say I was not amused.

So I ended up spending a good chunk of the day sorting this mess up but also got considerable time in as Joanna after 2 solid days away without being able to dress.

It’s funny how accustomed I’ve become to having that be a part of my life and when I can’t I really miss it quite a lot.

I know that many of you don’t dress every day while for some of you it’s just part of your normal life because you have transitioned. I seem to be in that in between zone somewhere and it’s just developed over time to be my routine.

Nothing wrong with having a routine if it works for you and this one definitely does for me.


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

the question of eroticism

It is very difficult to be transgendered MtF person with male plumbing.

Autogynephilia hinges on the proposal that you suffer from a paraphilia because you as a male have masturbated to the idea of being or becoming a woman. That idea, used to derail my thinking but it no longer does because I have come to possess a more comprehensive and complete portrait of what it means in general and for myself in particular.

I have a past dotted with innocent crossdressing followed by post pubescent erotic episodes which led to my throwing away all of the clothes I possessed in shame and disgust. Here I was doing something I found very innocent and hoping desperately to avoid the spectre of an orgasm but it somehow seemed unavoidable in the end.

As I have aged that connection and need continues to progressively erode while the identity builds, however the erotic closure is still there at the end of each outing. It has become somehow hard wired as part of my sexuality because my gender dysphoria somehow piggy backed itself onto my sexual development. It came along for the ride and fused itself to my being as I was developing.

I view calling this target location error as a misnomer because I am still very much drawn sexually to women. The problem is that I cannot perform normally as a male due to this anomaly.

I personally have no history of fetishist behaviour, have never read erotic fiction, have never dressed provocatively or overtly sexually and my social exploits as Joanna consist of going out shopping or having coffee with a friend. Yet there is a subdued element of sexuality present in the very act of transformation which I am hard pressed to explain.

Some transsexual women, looking to distance themselves from us, revel in calling us perverts while AGP enthusiasts gleefully tell us that our activity is rooted in paraphilia brought on by some sort of childhood trauma. Each of them has their axe to grind and am at a loss to explain their motivation. None of the duelling factions have any proof to speak of however and, for that matter, neither do I.

My only proof lies in the careful examination of my behaviour over a lifetime coupled with delving into the literature of people I respect. Researchers like Harry Benjamin and Anne Vitale have dealt with this difficult topic with intellectual honesty above all and have left its politicisation to those who would use our lack of scientific certainty to unscrupulously discriminate against others.

I like the analogy using Anne Vitale’s term “gender expression deprivation anxiety” in that one needs an outlet which may have a sexual component to it. It may get mingled with other sexual desires, to the point that they seem like one and the same. This is why many of us can love women but also find it arousing to think of ourselves as being them.

It is interesting to note that the early diagnosing of whether a claim of transsexualism by a patient was valid was to ensure that there was no sexual motivation present. It’s almost as if the person had to be asexual to qualify and to admit that one had masturbated in women’s clothes was tantamount to heresy. Many of these early patients simply said what they needed to in order to receive the treatment they so required.

Things have changed considerably since then and a more complete and less monolithic portrait of transsexuals has been pieced together.

For that we can all greatly be thankful because human beings are not caricatures but are instead very complex models of nature.


Monday, 14 July 2014

our biggest challenge

The acceptance of family and friends is what every transgendered person deeply wishes for.

The catch of course is that most of us sold those people a bill of goods that did not align with our true identity. We hid because we tried to change or due to fear of rejection; there are a great many reasons.

But even if we did not ask to be born this way, I nevertheless feel strongly that lives not be torn apart due to our own selfishness. Our spouses and children who saw and witnessed the person we presented as before don't deserve a 180 degree about face and the sudden announcement that we're now a woman.

I am not judging anyone here but only stating a basic truth.

For the gender dysphoric the journey of self discovery and liberation is often a life saving endeavor and yet so often it involves the rupture and upheaval of other lives in the process. The older one is when they discover themselves, the more likely will be that this realignment will cause pain and suffering to others.

I know that some wait for the passing of a spouse or for the adulthood of their children but others somehow expect that they will keep their significant relationships wholly intact. The reality is that very few transgendered people will come away unscathed from this gut wrenching process.

I understand fully how hard it is to bear the burden of gender dysphoria and yet I strive to reflect daily on how my decisions surrounding its management will affect others around me. I shoot for a balance between my sanity and my obligations to those who depend on me.

If you have been able to undertake your journey towards becoming whole and have left little or no carnage in the process, I salute you; for you have managed to do something which is extraordinarily difficult and have come to tell the tale and maybe inspire others.

We are all different and yet all want the same thing: to love, be loved; all the while loving and respecting ourselves.

Sounds simple doesn't it?

Sunday, 13 July 2014

bedrock

I am now on my own again.

If I think back over the last number of years beginning with my stroke in 2007, there has been such flux in my life that it is hard to comprehend in retrospect how I managed it. After having spent a relatively stable but grey-tinged existence over 13 years, my life took a decidedly different turn and became a roller coaster marked with dramatic twists and turns.

Perhaps its time to touch bedrock once again.

It's good to refocus and I intend to use the resolve gained from life experience plus my newly found internal peace to do just that.

Time does wonderful things and I intend to stick to my guiding mantra of "one day at a time" to continue my life journey.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

therapeutic reservations

I admit I have some reservations about gender therapy.

First let me state that I think it is a good thing to seek help when you are in distress. You need to bounce your feelings off someone and have them ask you questions or simply have them listen while you speak thus providing you with a sounding board. We benefit greatly as human beings from simply unloading our thoughts and fears by sharing them with another human being.

However, I now believe that there is no substitute for the natural gestation period that time and patience affords you.

You need to catch your breath and spend many hours reflecting on your own. You need to analyse your thought processes which have been coloured by social and parental conditioning and allow yourself the time to dissect them. In essence, you need time to understand what makes you tick.

I remember sitting in the waiting room before going in to see Helene Cote (a gender therapist I saw for a short time while I was still reflecting on a possible transition) and briefly meeting a fellow patient. I struck up a short conversation with this person and came away with the impression that there was something wrong there. She was somewhere in mid transition but I sensed some sadness in her. I estimated that she was in her mid fifties. Afterwards upon entering Helene’s office she was surprised to hear that we had struck up a conversation because she confided that this patient was very wary of speaking to strangers and had some social interaction issues.

After three sessions with Helene, I decided to abandon the entire process. I wanted to spend more time reflecting on my own and get to really know myself. The year that I spent doing this was the most productive and therapeutic one I have ever spent in my life.

My feeling now is that if I had gone into a therapy setting at that time I might have been influenced into transitioning more easily before getting my own thoughts in order. Of course I understand that many people transition lucidly and after much reflection but I also know of others who have regretted their decision.

No one can choose or influence your life path for you and any major life decision should be made in the sobering light of a deep introspection.

You owe yourself nothing less.


Friday, 11 July 2014

sartorial liberty

There is no question that women have it harder in the social scheme of things. Men run the world and continue to see the female gender as the less powerful and important of the two binaries. This is not just my observation but an actual fact of life.

Things are admittedly changing for the better but in many cultures being male are seen as strong and dominant whereas being female is to be weak and subservient.

Perhaps because of this imbalance and in attempts to raise themselves above this imposed inequality, women have fought battles for more freedoms of expression which have brought them greater flexibility in their choices. They have adopted more traditionally male roles in greater numbers than men have adopted female roles. They can dress with more flexibility because to desire to emulate or identify with the male is seen as desirable whereas to be more female is seen as disempowering. A man who wants to dress as a woman is seen as a fairy; weakling or social pariah whereas a woman who dresses as a man will be at worst mildly ridiculed or thought of as butch.

Consider that in the 1950’s very few, if any, women wore pants whereas today perhaps a tiny sliver of men wear skirts.

I mention all this because for MtF gender variant people who do not wish to transition but instead desire for freer modes of feminine expression, there is still much work to do in terms of social acceptance. Therefore we cannot wait for society to give us a free pass but must instead live life as we see fit.

Certainly the vast majority of men will choose not to exercise this option but it would be nice to see a world where those of us who are different would not be discriminated against.

Today, we are increasingly seeing examples of younger gender variant people who are living as they feel they were meant to. Those of us from older generations have had to learn this a little later in our lives but it’s never too late to get a full grasp of your full identity and exercise your freedom to express it.

Live as you were meant to because you only have one life and it belongs to you.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

life is just like that

Life can be hard and messy and even when things appear to be going well there can be surprises in store. I have learnt this lesson only too well over the course of my life and I seem to be more adept at dealing with this reality.

My friend and colleague with cancer is faring much worse.

He has gone into palliative care and there is nothing really they can do for him now other than relieve his pain with medication. It will be a matter of time now. Three of us visited him in the hospital yesterday and I have promised myself and him that there will be weekly visits.

When I am feeling down, I try to keep in mind that there is always someone who is in a worse position than we are.

If I’ve learnt anything it’s that material things will come and go but love of self and others and health of body and spirit are the key ingredients to contentment in this life.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

status report - then and now

After having studied my own behaviour and reading everything I could get my hands on over the last number of years, I now know with absolute certainty that I am a gender dysphoric that fits somewhere between a type III and IV on the Harry Benjamin scale.

My situation, which brought me a good deal of turmoil in the past, I now regard as a fact of life and treat it with a sense of peace and acceptance and with an awareness that it forms part of the way I was made.

The process of coming to terms has been very challenging because discerning between what inherently forms part of your creation and what you have yourself created is often difficult to gauge and possessing the reflective powers to make the distinction is not obvious; certainly not when you are very young and possess little education on this highly complex subject.

Everything I have read tells me we are still very far away from even a basic understanding.

Experiencing and living something that is beyond your understanding and which no one explains to you creates a great deal of confusion; most especially if that something is seen as undesirable.

No one chooses to be gender dysphoric. It just happens.

The difference you can make in your life is the degree to which you allow the condition to consume your existence and the means that you use to manage the feelings in order to cope. Yes there is always transition but this is neither a viable nor desirable option for every gender dysphoric.

If you fall between two worlds neither of the binaries will fit you perfectly. Indeed we are all a combination of both.

I have never been able to function sexually in a normal way and must imagine myself in some form of female guise in order to achieve an orgasm. This created problems in my ability to form relationships with women and presented a challenge I did not ask for but I dealt with it as best I could.

In retrospect there is little I could have done differently because of the place in history I was born and my family circumstances. Hence, the experience of dealing with my particular situation has, for better or worse, greatly shaped the person I am today.

But there is a saying that whatever does not kill you makes you stronger and I would like to believe that it’s applicable here. Even if I do not understand the reason for something, I can accept that it may be divulged in due time. In the meantime you need to be the person you were made to be which is a unique entity not easily reproduced; for you are a product of nature and nurture with its own very original blend of ingredients.

If you have followed this blog from the beginning you will see a progression from highly conflicted individual to comfortable person with a continuing appetite for learning about this fascinating subject in which I am intimately immersed.

Until now, the ride continues to intrigue me.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The blurry line

To this day, "The Transsexual Phenomenon" remains one of the most important works dealing with transsexualism.

Harry Benjamin developed his dysphoria scale after seeing hundreds of patients and it was often very difficult for him to identify whether a patient was a transvestite (term used as historical reference) or a transsexual. I include here an excerpt from his book that clearly illustrates this blurring of the lines:

"The relationship between transvestism (TVism) and transsexualism (TSism) deserves further scrutiny and reflection. Both can be considered symptoms or syndromes of the same underlying psychopathological condition, that of a sex or gender role disorientation and indecision. Transvestism is the minor though the more frequent, transsexualism the much more serious although rarer disorder.

Cross-dressing exists (with few exceptions) in practically all transsexuals, while transsexual desires are not evident (although possibly latent) in most transvestites. It seems to depend upon how deeply and for what congenital or acquired reasons the sex and gender orientation is disturbed, whether the clinical picture of transvestism or transsexualism will emerge. The picture of TSism may first appear to be merely TVism, but whether this indicates a progressive character is by no means certain. (See chapter 4, "The Male Transsexual").

Definitions and classifications

In previous medical publications, I have divided all transvestites into three groups according to the clinical picture they presented. First there are those who merely want to "dress," go out "dressed," and to be accepted as women. They want to be allowed to do so. Their clash is with society and the law. Most of them feel, live, and work as men and lead normal, heterosexual lives, often as husbands and fathers.

Group 2 constitutes a more severe stage of an emotional disturbance. It could be interpreted as an intermediate stage between transvestism and transsexualism. These patients may waver in their emotions between the two. They need more than merely "dressing" to appease their psychological sex with its commanding and demanding female component. They want to experience some physical changes, bringing their bodies closer to that of the female, although they do shy away from surgery and the alteration of their genitalia. Such a desire, however, can play a part in their fantasies and daydreams. Like those of Group 1, for them the penis is still an organ of pleasure, in most cases for masturbation only. They crave some degree of gynecomastia (breast development) with the help of hormone medication, which affords them an enormous emotional relief. Psychotherapy is indicated but the patients frequently refuse it or fail to benefit from it. Their clash is not only with society and the law, but also with the medical profession. Relatively few doctors are familiar with their problems; most doctors do not know what to do for them except to reject them as patients or to send them to psychiatrists as "Mental cases."

This clash with society, the law, and the medical profession is still more pronounced and tragic in Group 3, which constitutes fully developed transsexualism. The transsexual shows a much greater degree of sex [9] and gender role disorientation and a much deeper emotional disturbance. To him, his sex organs are sources of disgust and hate. So are his male body forms, hair distribution, masculine habits, male dress, and male sexuality. He lives only for the day when his "female soul" is no longer being outraged by his male body, when he can function as a female - socially, legally, and sexually. In the meantime, he is often asexual or masturbates on occasion, imagining himself to be female.

This, very briefly, is the clinical picture of the three groups as they appeared to me originally during the observation of over two hundred such patients. More than half of them were diagnosed as transsexuals (TSs). The above interpretation, that is to say, transvestism as the mildest and transsexualism as the most severe
disturbance of sex and gender orientation, seems to be practical and to fit the facts. Lukianowicz [10] and Burchard,[11] an English and a German psychiatrist, respectively, are in general agreement with this view. But there are other concepts that deserve consideration and should be outlined.

Sex object choice

Some investigators believe that the two conditions, TVism and TSism, should be sharply separated, principally on the basis of their "sex feel" and their chosen sex partners (object choices). The transvestite - they say - is a man, feels himself to be one, is heterosexual, and merely wants to dress as a woman. The transsexual feels himself to be a woman ("trapped in a man’s body") and is attracted to men. This makes him a homosexual provided his sex is diagnosed from the state of his body. But he, diagnosing himself in accordance with his female psychological sex, considers his sexual desire for a man to be heterosexual, that is, normal.

The choice of a sex partner is changeable. A number of transvestites are bisexual. As men, they can be attracted by women. When "dressed," they could be aroused by men. Chance meetings can be decisive. The statements of these patients cannot always be relied upon. They want to act within the conventions, or at least
want to appear to do so. They may claim heterosexuality when actually they have more homosexual tendencies, which they suppress or simply do not admit. Some feel sufficiently guilty as TVs without wanting to confess to homosexual tendencies besides. Some do admit that heterosexual relations are possible with recourse to fantasies only. (In this way, transsexuals explain their marriages and parenthood and this explanation is most likely correct).

When first interviewed, the patient may appear to be a TV of the first or second group. He often hesitates to reveal his wish for a sex change right away. Only after closer contact has been established and confidence gained does the true nature of his deviation gradually emerge. Such seeming "progression" was observed in five or six out of my 152 transsexual patients, on whom I am reporting in this volume.

The opposite is rare but I have seen it happen. The apparent transvestite, or even transsexual, under treatment or - more likely - through outside influence (meeting the right girl) - turns toward heterosexuality and "normal" life.

For how long is always the question.

Are all transvestites transsexuals?

Coming back to the differences between transvestism and transsexualism., another simpler and more unifying concept and a corresponding definition may have to be considered. That is, that transvestites with their more or less pronounced sex and gender indecision may actually all be transsexuals, but in varying degrees of intensity.

A low degree of largely unconscious transsexualism can be appeased through cross-dressing and demands no other therapy for emotional comfort. These are transvestites (Group 1).

A medium degree of transsexualism makes greater demands in order to restore or maintain an emotional balance. The identification with the female cannot be satisfied by wearing her clothes alone. Some physical changes, especially breast development, are requirements for easing the emotional tension. Some of these
patients waver between transvestitic indulgences and transsexual demands for transformation (Group 2).

For patients of a high degree of transsexualism (the "true and full-fledged transsexual"), a conversion operation is the all-consuming urge, as mentioned earlier and as a later chapter will show still more fully. Cross-dressing is an insufficient help, as aspirin for a brain tumor headache would be (Group 3).

It must be left to further observations and investigations in greater depth to decide whether or not transvestitic desires may really be transsexual in nature and origin. Many probably are, but the frequent fetishistic transvestites may have to be excluded.

If these attempts to define and classify the transvestite and the transsexual appear vague and unsatisfactory, it is because a sharp and scientific separation of the two syndromes is not possible. We have as yet no objective diagnostic methods at our disposal to differentiate between the two. We - often - have to take the statement of an emotionally disturbed individual, whose attitude may change like a mood or who is inclined to tell the doctor what he believes the doctor wants to hear. Furthermore, nature does not abide by rigid systems. The vicissitudes of life and love cause ebbs and flows in the emotions so that fixed boundaries cannot be drawn.

It is true that the request for a conversion operation is typical only for the transsexual and can actually serve as definition. It is also true that the transvestite looks at his sex organ as an organ of pleasure, while the transsexual turns from it in disgust. Yet, even this is not clearly defined in every instance and no two cases are ever alike. An overlapping and blurring of types or groups is certainly frequent"


Harry Benjamin

Monday, 7 July 2014

Brown versus Vitale

Kay Brown is a transsexual woman who runs a blog called “On the Science of Changing Sex”.

In her February 14, 2014 entry she goes to great length to analyse an essay by Anne Vitale which I myself have featured on my blog. In this analysis she goes on to compare her own views on the two types of transsexualism with Miss Vitale’s and finds much alignment.

However, when it comes to Autogynephilia she admonishes Anne Vitale’s non acceptance or non use of the term when describing gynephilic transsexual arousal to the idea of being women.

Maybe I am being obtuse here but the term Autogynephilia is a term invented by a man to describe a phenomenon which is not even understood and by adopting the term you are also necessarily accepting the idea that the gynephilic transsexual is a fetishist and a pervert.

Hence Anne Vitale (whom I respect and admire greatly) smartly avoids using a term she disagrees with; but not because she ignores the observed behaviour but because she has a problem with the conclusions reached.

Once again I am left shaking my head at people who should know better, blindly accepting the term of a pseudo scientist and the corresponding conclusion without sufficient evidence.

For the record, Anne Vitale (like Kay Brown) has herself transitioned, is a licensed PhD and has a patient history of over 500 people. Her work is among the more lucid and least politicized I have read.

I attach a link to the Kay Brown blog entry...

http://sillyolme.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/a-clinical-view/


Kay Brown



Sunday, 6 July 2014

they will always be among us

In my Internet travels I have come across a horrid and insulting website called gendertrender. It is written by a transphobic and hateful lesbian who clearly has issues. But what it brings home to me once again is how the small minded of this world feel they have the right to pronounce themselves on a condition that they do not have and politicize it.

There is no shortage of these sites but I single this one out as an example.

So whether it's the well meaning religious right wing nut jobs or the feminist extremists, some human beings consistently are out to prove that they can reach previously unreached levels of stupidity.

Gender dysphoria is a real condition and if you have it you must deal with it. Hard enough as that already is, it's comforting to know that we can always count on politically motivated ignoramouses to only make things worse.

You can't change society but you can change yourself and strength your insides. My mother told me when I was growing up that life was difficult and full of challenges and she was right. She helped teach me to strengthen myself and prepare for all kinds of situations and people.

I now tell my children the very same thing and try and help build the psychological armor they will need to deal with those who would gloat over their failures.

We can't always help the willfully ignorant but we can strengthen our own minds and souls to help deal with them or preferably ignore them all together. The fringe will always be among us.

They do however sometimes represent the hidden face of what people talk about behind closed doors. Just like racism can have both a public and private face so can this issue.

Politics don't interest me but intelligence or, in this case, lack of it tends to draw my attention.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

finding our own middle road

One aspect that I am liking is how slowly but surely over time my cross gender expression morphed from dressing up as a woman to dressing as me.

That very important change has allowed me to meld my femaleness into my personhood and create a whole human being rather than a man creating a temporary caricature of a woman.

This will change nothing in my plans not to transition but it helps me enormously in my perception of myself and how to curb my dysphoric feelings. This mental change has made me wonderfully at ease.

Ideally we should treat and acknowledge this condition early in life when your options are all open to you but barring that you need to find a formula that helps you cope and soothes or even eliminates your gender expression deprivation anxiety

Those of us who grew up in a time when very little help was available can at least take solace in today's more open environment to find ways to respect our family obligations and spousal vows while somehow being ourselves.

Not an easy road I know but there are no perfect answers in this life.




Friday, 4 July 2014

spot the difference

I'm surprised sometimes by transgender people who buy into Autogynephilia theory but I have a theory as to why.

It may be more convenient and reassuring to them that they have a fetish than gender dysphoria. However they should realize that the theory is being used to marginalize people. It's being used by HBS extremists, radical feminists and by religious extreme groups to paint them as perverted men.

But whether you like it or not if your gender confusion goes back to very early childhood then you don't have a fetish. Most fetishists (and I've read a number of testimonials now) start around the age of puberty and the advent of sexualisation.

The problem for the dysphoric is that the beginning of puberty also brings the conflict of attraction to women combined with their already strong association with their own feminine nature. That mixture confuses them and makes them feel they need to be cured. This happens if the boy is heterosexual.

If the young boy discovers he has homosexual tendencies and probably fairly effeminate, then he will have an easier time aligning his dysphoria with his sexual orientation. This individual will transition early in life and move into stealth living.

The heterosexual dysphoric is best served by dissasociating themselves from AGP theory because his condition is being used to discriminate against him and roll him up with other fetishists who do not suffer in the least from dysphoria. Make no mistake in that they are not the same animal.

If the dysphoric does not transition he is stuck with this condition for life whereas I believe that a fetish may possibly be curbed to some degree or even eliminated.

Dysphorics won't be so lucky.

You can easily tell the difference between fetishists and dysphorics by observing their behavior. Whereas the fetishist will play up the sexuality and eroticism the dysphoric will try to be as close to a woman as possible and blend into the world. Fetishists will cling to sexually charged TG fiction whereas typically dysphorics will not. A fetishist will also cling strongly to his male identity.

So it does disappoint me when I see gender dysphorics associate themselves with the work of Blanchard because this was the man approving genital reassignment surgery for people he considered perverted males. Now that is an odd contradiction if I ever saw one.


Thursday, 3 July 2014

equality for all

I heard on the radio today about an interesting social experiment. They took a young and beautiful young woman and dressed her provocatively in a public setting. Then the visual and verbal responses of other women were recorded.

In almost every single case, the other women viewed her negatively essentially considering her competition. This reaction was particularly evident in the same age group as the test woman.

The researchers behind the study have theorized that it is women who control the doling out of sex and use it as a way to exert some degree of control over men. When another woman breaks the rules and oversteps her boundaries, they let her know it in no uncertain terms.

Seems logical I suppose considering that men spend more active time seeking sex and women can deny or grant them their wish. It is one way to exert power albeit not in the right way.

But why do some women do this to each other? I would argue that it's learned behaviour.

We certainly know that women are overly sexualised in our society. Just look at the images on print and broadcast media for confirmation. Women are also exploited for sex work and marginalized in many countries including in North America. The last thing I want for my own daughter is to live in a society where she is seen as inferior because of her gender. We of all people should appreciate that more than most.

I grew up with these images myself and am trying to actively work against all stereotyping that I was spoon fed over my lifetime. This one remains a tenacious one and in fact contributes to our marginalization as transgendered people.

The more positively women are seen in society the more our identities will have validity and dignity. Let's strive for true equality for all.


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

learning to unlearn

At complete and utter peace is where I am these days.

My dressing outings have become a normal part of my life and getting dressed and made up has become a finely honed and efficient exercise. Joanna has become part of my daily life in the best way possible.

In the early days I was very aware of my movements and my physical presence. I had to work at the illusion to make sure I was not too obviously male but as one practices everything flows and becomes second nature. I remember suffering from tunnel vision when walking in public and would not look people in the face for fear of seeing a negative reaction plastered on the person's face.

By stark contrast, today I no longer navel gaze but fully immerse myself in my surroundings and I do so in the same manner as when presenting as a male. This process snuck up on me very slowly and one day I was suddenly there. I had no marking indicators to measure my progress other than my steadily growing peace of mind.

The way I got there was to allow myself to stop being a stereotype. I had to unlearn how to be male and start learning to be a female.

Our conditioning is so strong and so pervasive and because we learn by mimicking what we see our elders do we copy that. We learn to be stereotypical males so we can fit in.

The problem is that this model does not work for a dysphoric; it actually hampers our self actualisation because our brains want to be more female. That learning process stifles our natural tendencies and if you, like me, grew up in a very traditional family and society structure you are going to suffer in the process.

Learning to unlearn is key for us. It's the only way out of our conundrum.

It takes courage and determination but actually in the end you have little choice because it will all explode in your face at some point in middle life.

The sooner we learn to let go and be ourselves the better.

Oh and happy Canada day to my fellow Canucks!