THE SAD STUFF
Let's face it, the big question about any planned endeavor is "what might I regret", or "What is the worst possible thing". Let's address this right up front. Sixteen years after transition; what hurts?
The single biggest sadness for me involves my childhood. I am keenly aware that I have been denied a childhood as a girl. I have not had the experiences, the traumas, the joys and the socialization that 'normal' girls take for granted. I will never know what it is like to go to school as a girl, get my first period, have childhood friends relate to me as a girl. I will never have memories of pretty dresses, or playing dolls. (well, other than the few times I snuck in such guilty joys, sometimes suffering punishment for them.)
I sometimes feel like an artificial 'Replicant' from the brilliant film 'Blade Runner'; collecting (mental) photographs of a past I never had. I curse myself for not having expressed my gender far more obviously at a young age...even though I know that doing so would have resulted in more than just the violence I endured..I would likely have been killed. Impossible yearnings for a past stolen from me do occasionally haunt me.
I also sometimes cry because I know I will never be able to have a child. I will never have a daughter, I will never suckle a child. I have fully functional breasts, but I will never be permitted to have them serve their biological function, I will never know that experience. Adoption, except by direct and somewhat covert means, is not allowed to the transsexual. I will never be a mother.
Indeed, it is best for me to stay as far away from the children of any person as possible, because my past makes me an instant target of bigotry. What greater horror to any mother than to have one of those perverted, sick, transsexual freaks around, corrupting their children? To save myself from unfounded accusation and persecution, from prejudice and intolerance, I can never dare to work in a Day Care, become a grade school teacher, or do any of the other jobs that childless non-transsexual women may choose to overcome their sorrow.
My own problem is, you might think oddly, that I 'pass' too perfectly. The holy grail of transsexuals is a double edged sword. Oh, without question it is preferable in every way, much as being vastly wealthy is preferable in every way over poverty, but there are hidden sorrows, within it.
The reason for the creation of this site is based on one of these sorrows. I found that, perfectly accepted by neighbors, I was included naturally as a woman in their lives. This was wonderful, until topics of discussion turned to matters of growing up, of childhood, or of biological functioning and sex. Here, I had to fall mute. I am hopeless at the basic human skill of lying, so making up a false history was not an option. Additionally, lacking real knowledge, it would be easy for me to be caught. I was forever forced to fall silent, made eager to try to change the subject. It was my last recourse to just nod and force the odd empty laugh when other women spoke of their first date, or first period, or childhood toys, or basic life experiences. Sometimes it was hard to hold back tears at what I had missed. Such situations make me feel alien, outside, passing for human. Excluded from life.
At first I could tolerate this difficult situation. But as the years progressed, it became increasingly impossible to bear. If women friends spoke of the differences between men and women, I writhed inside myself...for what they speculated about, I actually knew for certain, first hand. I had been a kind of spy in the camp of the men for almost two decades, and my transition and life had taught me directly the differences as they relate to being a woman. Such knowledge as they could only ponder, I actually knew, but had to stay mute about. If I were to offer the slightest particle of wisdom, it might raise suspicion, certainly speaking would raise eyebrows...how could anyone know such things?
Passing perfectly can mean living in fear of being found out. It can mean hiding and covering up. It means keeping a secret. Some people find this easy, I find it painful. For me, passing perfectly and staying hidden very often means having to keep carefully guarded my greatest achievement, my most difficult adventure, the barely survived fountainhead of much of my wisdom. It means censoring my life, and to some degree my very identity.
Was not the reason I went through transition to be free? To be able to be myself without hiding? And now I find myself hiding again, for a similar reason...something about myself too terrible to admit.
Of course, being Out is bad too...for it can change how one is related to. As an unquestioned woman, I must be mute, stifled, silent, but I am accepted and no one considers me as alien. As a transsexual woman, there can be a kind of taint, an uneasy feeling in the air that I am different, that I am not 'really' a woman, that I do not entirely belong. Yet the only real thing that has changed in both cases, is the name, the label I am given. I act, express, and am the same in both scenarios...but prejudice and fear make the existence of my personal truth change how I am related to. One word changes me from ordinary woman to alien, yet I am still the same.
So the bad stuff about being sixteen years post-operative includes the fact that I forever feel cheated of the things that I have been denied by life, and that I must face an evil choice between a secretive, mute acceptance, or a fully alive exclusion.
THE HAPPY STUFF
Going through transition was one of the grandest adventures of my life. It was the most intelligent, positive, self beneficial thing I have ever done. I would certainly be dead before my current age of 38 without it. The benefits are almost innumerable. Indeed, I wish I could have done it sooner than I did. (alas, another, impossible, regret!)
My body finally feels correct. I love the contours of my form, the softness and delicacy of my skin, the biochemical 'feel' of my body and mind.
I love how my emotions are affected and released by the influence of estrogen. It is wonderful to be actually able to freely cry, laugh, feel gladness and sorrow fully, to have my emotions unchained. I can cry at movies, I can cry in joy, not just at trauma. I can laugh freely, I can giggle, I can sing.
Without question, the ability to feel 'correct' and the ability to freely emote, to be myself completely, is the greatest joy. It is beyond words, it is transcendent, sublime. Be it my flesh or my expression in the world, transition was worth every tear, every horror.
I am grateful that I can wear what I want, move as I wish, behave in a natural and unaffected way, and fear no violence. Indeed, the more relaxed and natural I am, the more accepted I am. If I am found curious, it is when I am nervous and unconsciously start affecting the robotic, stoic behavior that I once used to mask my lack of masculinity.
I am now rewarded, not beaten, for being myself. This alone is a treasure beyond compare.
But the second greatest joy is in my personal relationships. There is a multiverse of difference between the interpersonal dynamics of a man and another man, a man and a woman, and two women together. Everything about those experiences is unique and different. For me, nothing could possibly be better than to be a woman, relating to others. This is the other treasure of transition, beyond the basic need to correct nature's mistake.
To be able to relate to another person as myself, not as a role, not as an affectation, is supreme. The emotional intimacy that I have with my spouses - especially to my female ones - is worth the entire voyage just by itself. The dynamics of being a woman with another woman, is the happiest thing I have ever known. It is pretty nice being a woman with a man, but, for sheer emotional honesty, I will prefer the company of other women every time.
All this would have been forever unknown to me, had I not transitioned so long ago.
To transition is not an event. It is an ongoing process of growing and unlearning.
Just as the passing years only increases my physical passability, so to does the years of living utterly as myself, as a woman, permit me to find and reveal my essence. I am far closer to being my true self today, than I was a decade ago, because I have had years to settle in, become comfortable, to let go of my past. All those childhood years of attempting to act like a male take time to release, take time to melt away. It takes time to wash away the protective mud, to reveal the jewel in the center.
It took me years to finally train myself not to automatically freeze up in tight-assed psudo-boy statue mode if I felt afraid or embarrassed. It took years to get over trying to sound aggressively certain about things in order to cover the fact that I was unsure. It took years to overcome the fear of being myself. Even today, a particularly stressful or singular moment might bring back something of those old tattered defenses.
It is not easy to overcome 20 years of self denial and self protective affectations. It takes time.
SOCIAL LIMITATIONS AND FREEDOMS
When I went through transition, my doctors were ever so worried that I would not be able to handle the limitations of life as a woman. What a shock, what a horror, they imagined, for anyone to find themselves suddenly paid less, not listened to, minimized, barely respected, and rendered less socially powerful just because of their sex. My doctors worried that this would destroy a man.
It probably would.
Fortunately, I am a woman. I have seen my share, perhaps more than my share, of such cultural minimization. Even before my transition, I was second class...indeed perhaps third class, because at least a woman is not a 'biological freak'. I never passed well as a male. In a way it is almost humorous that I pass better as a woman than I ever did as a male, despite having been born into a male body.
It is not a happy thing to hit a glass ceiling, to be denied any validity for lack of testicles, to be treated as somewhat dim because of the possession of breasts. No, it is not a happy thing at all, and having once spied for my gender in the boy's camp, I am doubly angry. Perhaps I am more angry than would a woman fortunate to be born into the correct body from the start.
But it is also not the most important thing in life, either. Sexism hurts, and I fight it strongly because of that hurt, but I also recognize that there is more to life than equality of power. I cannot take for granted the things that other women do.
A man cannot enjoy the same freedom of expression that a woman can. Even a secure and flamboyant gay man cannot. In the realm of personal expression, being female is supreme.
Society may change over time, probably in ways we cannot imagine today. But I live in the world in the current year. In this year, there are social limits and freedoms accorded both sexes, unique to each. In general, men enjoy power and hierarchy, women enjoy personal expression and the opportunity for emotional honesty (whether they choose to take that opportunity or not!).
Of the two, I prefer the lot of womanhood, so I have no regrets. Power and hierarchy is a strict game, and one I do not enjoy.
Being a woman is wonderful...if in fact you actually are a woman. It would destroy a man, which of course, is why Female-to-Male transsexuals are as driven as the Male-to-Female sorts. To finally fit in both body and social expression is without question wonderful. That only gets better as the years go by.
Hiding my past only became more painful, as time went on, and caused me to feel repressed and silenced, invisible and full of self loathing. Hiding my transsexuality seems to hurt, despite the dangers and problems of being Out. I would not choose to be Out to everyone, all the time. That would be horrible. But neither can I stand living in fear of discovery. Somewhere there is a balance, between the honesty of my life and the benefits of safety and acceptance.
Social limitations are just part of life. They must be fought when it is appropriate, and endured when there is nothing to be done.
The sadness of a lost childhood, of never being able to birth a child, of never being able to be a mother or to experience a 'normal' life, is a sadness that does not magically fade away. Nothing really cures it, and it will forever shadow me.
The wisdom of the experience of the transsexual's journey is of supreme value. It can bring awareness and understanding, and appreciation of that which others take for granted.
Sixteen years post operative, but not post transition...in a very real sense transition never ends, because change never ends.
In the final analysis, taking into consideration all these things, and my own responsibility for my own choices and life, I regret nothing that I could have realistically controlled. My only regrets are of things that were always beyond my ability to affect, such as time, and birth, and the bigotry of society.
I am grateful that I live in an age where I could get the hormones and surgery I needed, and that I could become what I am today.
Yes, sixteen years later, I am absolutely grateful for my transition. I am more grateful every year that passes.
It was worth the prices I paid, and then some.
That is how I
feel, sixteen years post-op.