Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Transgender And Being Myself. I'm Not Trying To Be A Man's Fantasy Woman. So There Jenni Murray!

Some free writing for today.

So Jenni Murray has come out.  She's said that "men" who undergo sex change operations cannot be "real women".  That's what it says in The Telegraph anyway, a paper using language to imply that transgender women who have surgery are actually men.  A paper using language that doesn't quite understand what the operation is, that it isn't a "sex change" at all.  For many trans women - and trans men too - surgery just allows them to have a body that closer matches their gender.

Now.  If "men" who have such operations can't be real women, what of me?

I had an appointment with the Northern Regional Dysphoria Service today.  I've been attending the clinics for three and a half years.  Today I attended with a request:

DON'T refer me for a second opinion that I would need in order to begin the necessary procedures and jump through all the hoops that would lead to surgery.

Just don't.

So what of me Jenni Murray?  What of me Germaine Greer?  What of me Julie Bindel?  What of me all you who would exclude post-operative transgender women from being one of you?

Hey Jenni, in what way am I modelling myself on a male view of what a woman should be?

I don't wear make up.  Don't do my nails.  And there you are telling trans women that we can't be women because some of us, some of us, are into that kind of thing.  Well hey there Jenni, I know lots of cisgender women who are into those things too.  They won't go out without their face caked in makeup and lotions, and they're totally into worrying about what clothes to wear.  By your reasoning Jenni doesn't that mean that cisgender women aren't women either?

And what do you make of me who claims that "woman" title of herself and isn't even going to have that surgery?  What do you make of me who is now content to keep her penis and to stop fighting for a nouveau vagina, some luscious labia and a hand crafted clitoris?  I'm a woman Jenni.  No matter what you say.  Even if you think that show you present, Woman's Hour, isn't my hour at all.

Guess what Jenni.  I'm a woman.  And I'd be a woman with surgery.  And I'm a woman without it.  For me, surgery is irrelevant.  It might remove some aspects of dysphoria but it wouldn't change who I am.

You're right though.  I don't have the shared experience you had.  I never had my first period.  I never could look forward to being pregnant.  I could never share in any of those things which, regardless of my gender, I was barred from on account of being unfortunate enough to be born female with a dick.  You're right.  And you're right too that I was accounted some privileges that I wouldn't have had if I, like you, had vulva, vagina, womb.  You're right.  I've missed out on lots of things, good and bad.  And I've experienced other things, good and bad.

But guess what Jenni:  I'd do pretty much anything if it was possible to go back and be born with your kind of genitals.  I'd give up almost everything if I could have those shared experiences.  I would.

Because no matter how hard done by you feel being a woman, no matter what advantages a man might have in our society - and disadvantages too, don't forget them, if Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism project talks of them then you can too - no matter.  No matter.  I'm going to claim this:  I'd far rather have had your disadvantages than my outward male privilege.

I don't say that lightly.  It's just that growing up female in a "male" body is a pretty shit experience.  Growing up male in a "female" body is too.  As is the experience of non-binary people - let's not forget them or exclude them from your binary discussions.

Yes, I tell you Jenni Murray, you had it good and if I could I would live my life again with all the advantages you have through not being transgender.

Conclusion:  I am a woman.  I am a woman who had it worse than you Jenni.  Because I didn't even have the privilege of being able to begin to be myself.  Don't exclude me Jenni.  Don't exclude those like me.  Include us.  Embrace us.  Show us deep compassion.  Because you're the lucky one, not me.

Having said that, I count myself as very lucky indeed.  Because I am able to live my life now.  I am able to accept myself and find acceptance from people around me.  They know I am a woman.  They aren't like you, telling me to walk proud as me even though you say I'm not me at all.  What you seem to say is this: Be yourself.  Except that's not you.

I was going to write today about my decision to not have surgery.  My reasons.  MY reasons.  Just mine.  They are right for me and I'll totally support any transgender person who comes to other conclusions about their body.  Each of us has to be free to work it out for ourselves.  Each of us has to take as much time as we need.  It's taken me three and a half years of considering every aspect of the decision before arriving at this point.  And who knows?  There may come a day I change my mind and know I need the surgery.  That's okay too.

I was going to write about my reasons.  Something positive.  Something beautiful about the wonder of life and being and all the things I want to give my energy too.  Something about the way I used to suffer bad dysphoria about this body and now don't.  Something about the power of womanhood, no matter the shape of the woman.  And then along comes the woman the BBC puts in charge of their flagship programme for women and she claims that this shape I have isn't a woman's shape at all.  Hey Jenni, I charge that you have an image of what a woman should be and that your image isn't enough.  You're playing into a man's view of a fantasy woman - as someone (and sometimes something) in possession of a certain physiology.  And hey Jenni, get this.  If you charge that transwomen aren't women because some of us try in the short or long term to live up to an image then you are guilty of just the same thing.  You might not care about make up.  But neither do I.

You say you aren't transphobic.  You say I'm not a woman.  I hate to break it to you Jenni.  You're transphobic.  Or at the very least, you're MEphobic.  Phobic of this woman with a penis who doesn't really even know or understand what a "fantasy woman" is meant to be.  Phobic of this woman who just gets on with life and does her best to be herself.  Phobic of this woman who knows that some women happen to be really into fancy clothes and makeup and that many are striving for that fantasy body.

Jenni.  You're phobic.  Of a woman who claims to be a woman.

You're phobic.  Because you deny me my truth, deny me my identity, deny who and what I one hundred percent know myself to be.

Anyway.  This post was me being public.  About my surgical decisions.  I hadn't planned to talk about Jenni Murray.  I'd have ignored her completely had she not been presented of Woman's Hour.  [Which woman's hour is it anyway?  Obviously not mine.  But which woman?  Why isn't it women's hour if it's meant to apply to women rather than just one woman's perspective?]  I don't want to talk about people who deny me.

I wanted to say something else too:  That it is MY decision and mine alone to talk about surgery, lack of surgery and the ongoing state of my genitalia.  My decision.  Not yours.  Not anyone else's.  If I want to talk about it that's up to me.  And if anyone wants to listen or not listen that's up to them.  My decision.  It's not up to you.   It's NEVER up to you.  My genitals are not an acceptable topic of enquiry and never will be.  I don't go around asking you about your genitals do I?  I've never approached someone and said, "Hi Bob, do you think you'll decide to get circumcised soon?"  or "Hello Lucy, have you started your period yet and how are your labia looking these days?"  Neither of those questions is quite as personal as one that boils down to "When are you having your penis chopped off?"  Yet I don't ask them.  Other people ask me.  Regularly.  I wish they wouldn't and have taken to telling them not to ask but very often the kind of people who ask me about my penis/vagina situation don't take kindly to me asking them not to.  Just as the people who consistently misgender me go into all kinds of self-justification when I ask them not to.  Rather than just apologising.

I wrote a series of haiku - or near haiku - after such an encounter last week.  I was going to share it.  Perhaps I will tomorrow, which will make three posts about being transgender in a row.  An annoying statistic because it's the least interesting thing about me.  Thanks to bloody Jenni Murray I've just free-ranted for 1500 words and that's more than enough.  I wanted to start writing a story tonight too.  Something very jolly about a dolls' house.  And lots of death too.  Which takes a little of the jollity out of the story.  That'll have to wait too.

Signed, yours faithfully,

Clare.  A woman.  With a penis.  Without a desire to swap it for anything else.  Unless there's an option for something more useful.  Like a bullshit detector!


  1. Very well written and argued.I find many parallels with myself though still awaiting a first appointment with a GIC. Not sure how relevant that will be when it happens as Have been living as a woman since last summer with the full support of my family, friends, colleagues etc. Socially I have transitioned and the male role model I was brain washed to become has disappeared and finally my mind is at peace.I enjoy finally being able to look in a mirror and seeing the real me. At age 72 having eventually released the inner me, I don't know how I will feel re surgery though presently feel it would be a lot easier to dress with a smooth outline. No I did not bear or give birth to my daughter but was present and aided a difficult delivery and she & I have recently talked of her early childhood and come to the conclusion that I was more maternal than her natural mother.All women, including we trans women, are both similar & different in attitudes and experiences and should be regarded as a single group.

  2. I wish you good fortune with whatever you decide with regards to medical transition. You know that social transition is far more important for living a happy life and the rest of it is up to us - or up to what the medics allow! Well done for just getting on with it regardless of medical treatments.
    Whatever the outcomes I hope you're not waiting too long for the GIC appointment.
    I guess though that being able to wear a wider variety of clothes without bulging (or tucking - which I never got far with) is not a big enough reason for major surgery. I wear mostly what I want. And haven't worn a pair of trousers in three years. I don't have anything against them. I just like skirts and bought a really gorgeous one in a charity shop today. Yay for charity shops.
    What I didn't say when I wrote the above was this: No surgery for me BUT don't take away my hormone treatment please and I'm glad I had hair removal treatment on my face too. Yay for lots of options!


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