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Transbackground?

Anne

 

Issue 3
August 1998

 
I have read a large number of articles describing the life histories of transsexuals over the last few years, which state almost without exception that the writer knew from early childhood that (s)he was not really a boy or not really a girl. Now, I don't doubt that in some cases this is true, but is it really the case that the people who write about their experiences are only the ones that knew when they were very young?

I certainly did not know when I was that age. Whilst my family tell me I was always the "gentle one" or the "quiet one", or the "spoilt one" (depending on who you ask!) out of three brothers, I was born a boy and really did not have any problem with that until puberty.

When puberty, with a very limited knowledge of the facts of life occurred, I was still relatively OK with my developing manhood. The only thing which marked me out as different was a vague wish to have a female body and a desire to dress in female attire. I was brought up in a very puritanical Christian household, had only brothers and my mother was in her fifties by this time. She was several stones overweight and rather old fashioned in her taste in clothing (Sorry Mum!) I had few opportunities to experiment with women's clothes, but when I did found the experience arousing. I was very ashamed of this little peccadillo of mine. As masturbation was a sin, then what must it be if I found myself aroused by the ridiculous reflection in a mirror of a skinny teenager in old fashioned female clothes that were big enough to wrap around me twice???

I never admitted it to anyone. Later on my wife never knew that at times I "borrowed" her clothes. She did not know that many of the pieces of lingerie that I bought her would occasionally adorn my body, not just hers.

But I was still a man, in many ways very typically male. Although I had known since the fifth form that there were people who had operations to change their sex, and had even speculated, or rather, mused on the subject, I had never seriously considered it. I did not know the word "transsexual" even existed.

It was not until I became a father that I had the tiniest glimmerings of other things not being quite right. Many fathers are jealous of the relationship between mother and child, but I was jealous, not so much of the fact that the relationship existed, but more that right from the beginning my relationship with my children was different from hers. I wanted that bonding. In short I wanted to be their mother. So feeling guilty about this I tried extra hard to be the good husband and father. Still occasionally cross-dressing when the coast was clear.

Bouts of depression followed in my thirties, gradually getting worse into my early forties. It wasn't until I was forty-three that the truth finally filtered through. I wanted a woman's body (preferably Raquel Welch's!).

Only in my earliest attempts at explaining how I felt did I use the old clichÆ of feeling as though I "was a woman trapped in a man's body." I soon realised that was something I did not know about. All I felt was that I should have a female body in order to be fully me. Even now, several months into my "real life test", I have periods of wondering whether this can really be happening to me. Perhaps I will wake up soon and be back with my family!

Does this sound familiar?

I am sure I will be put firmly in my place. Told that I obviously have not read enough of the right literature. Even that I am not a real transsexual, perhaps. I have tried not to get into an emotional description of my life history, simply to state facts as I now see them in order to draw out the difference between my childhood and others' descriptions of theirs.

However, I do just sometimes wonder if there isn't an attempt to assuage unresolved guilt in making our backgrounds sound more pitiable and perhaps more "innocent" than they really are. Or maybe we have all read the accounts of transsexuals who say they have known since they were four and think that in order to be believed by the gender clinic consultants, the transsexual community and the world at large, we feel we too have to conform to this stereotype? Surely there is a whole spectrum of life histories amongst us? One daring psychologist told me that I am not "atypical". So why is it that the only ones I hear about all conform so neatly to the "primary transsexual" stereotype?

Or am I really the only one who feels like this?

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