This is my personal FAQ – not necessarily reflecting of other people’s views or the latest gender politics.
Why’s this site a secret / why’s it anonymous?
Not out of any reason of shame. It’s not even really anonymous or that much of a secret. In case you don’t get the reference – there was a popular book and TV show called Secret Diary of A Call Girl a few years ago, so it seemed like a fun name to give the site.
I write mostly for myself as a kind of poor-girls psychotherapy and I want to be able to write without constraint about my experiences with friends, families and work. I’m sure little by little I’ll leak it to each one of them, so it will be a secret diary in name only.
It’s really complicated – I don’t want to offend accidentally – What’s the difference between a Transvestite, Transgender Person and a Transexual?
It is complicated. I keep learning about new sub groups and labels. Here’s a simple guide to the terms:
- Trans* – This is a relatively new term. It is designed to include all gender variant people. At one end of the spectrum it includes Transvestites & Cross-dressers, Transgender & Transexual people & Non-binary people (don’t worry – I’ll get to all of these). Many don’t like it. Many do. If you use “Trans” you’re basically safe.
- Transgender – people that were born with one physical sex and at some point feel that their gender (inner sense of male or female) does not match. I identify as a transgender female.
- Transvestite / Cross Dresser – People that have a gender that matches their physical sex, but like to wear clothes of the other gender. They have no desire to transition to that other gender role and generally have no desire to change their bodies.
- Transexual – A transperson that uses medical intervention to change their body. This can include hormones or some number of surgeries. The term has fallen a little out of fashion as it focusses on surgical changes not one’s internal compass. However many still find the label works for them. You may occasionally hear the term pre-op, post-op and no-op (for those that don’t want the final lower surgery). However these terms have definitely fallen out of fashion as it is really very transphobic to publicly group & label people based on the surgeries they’ve had on their genitals or not. To be clear – it is never ok to ask a trans person this question.
- Cis (Cis person, Cis male, Cis female) – The opposite of trans. I have heard that some of you are born without feeling massive pressure and discomfort about your gender (you lot are so weird). It comes from the latin. Trans means on the far side of cis means on the near side of.
- Tranny – Plain and simple advice is avoid at all costs: It’s basically our N word. The analogy is remarkable accurate – Firstly it’s pretty insulting as it’s usually used by cis people as a pejorative phrase to describe us. Secondly as with the N-word you may hear trans* people using it about themselves. It’s more common place amongst cross-dressers than transgender people, but you will hear it. Whether or not black people should use the N word, I think we all agree it’s better if the rest of us don’t. The same apples to the T word – don’t do it.
For bonus points – here is the advanced class:
- Intersex – Someone born between the common two sexes from a physical point of view. This can be sex organs, gonads or chromosomal. Traditionally doctors would correct this at birth – often with disastrous consequence. Some countries are outlawing this practice. We should too.
- Non-binary person – This group of people feel that they don’t identify with male or female. They prefer this genderless label. They will usually want pronouns of They & Theirs to be used, but there are also less common variants like Ze and Zir.
- Bi gender – This group oscillate between two feelings of gender. This can from minute to minute, day to day, week to week or longer timescales or it can be situational. This can be Male and Female, Male & Non Binary or any combination of labels that works for that person.
- Gender Fluid – People that feel this way say that their personal feelings of gender are analogue and flow across a spectrum from male to female depending on time or situation.
- Queer / Gender queer – The queer movement is about the rejection of labels. For some this relates to their sexuality – finding that Straight, Gay, Bi, Pan or Sapiosexual just don’t work for them. For others this relates to gender – hence gender queer
When did you first know?
My first memories of gender variance were when I was around 4. I remember being obsessed with the name Sophie. I remember saying to my both my mum & nan “If I was a girl I’d want to be called Sophie”. I think I was meaning it like I was logging a request just in case it should suddenly happen rather than as a hypothetical. I suppose pretty early on I learned that one doesn’t talk about such things. So I hid it. I remember wanting to be a girl very clearly in primary school and this grew into envy as we got older and our physical and social differences widened. The point that I’m making is that I have enough of these little early memories to make me very sure that I felt different early.
Why did you wait so long?
This is a massively complex question. As a child growing up in the north in the early 80s I don’t suppose I was aware that these feelings were ones some other people had too. The TV in those days (and until recently too) ridiculed any form of gender variance. My father openly expressed homophobic and transphobic sentiment, pushing me deeper into the closet. Over time I built up a set of personal characteristics that allowed me to fit in (I never could get into sport though). In summary I suppose I felt different, but I guess I figured I was able to cope and live a fairly successful male life, so therefore I wasn’t fully trans. In my mind someone that was really trans would not be able to fit in. I felt a deep undertone of sadness throughout my life, which grew greater with every success – I think I felt more trapped as time went by.
I’ve heard of Gender Dysphoria… What is it?
For everyone it seems to be different. For some people it is very focussed around body issues. For others it’s a feeling of incongruence with how they feel and how society recognises them. For me it’s changed over time. When I didn’t dare to examine my feelings, the dysphoria was just a lot of noise. Like a thousand voices and whirling thoughts. Sometimes they were quite quiet like the sound from a distant motorway but other times it would be so unbearably noisy that I couldn’t hear people over the noise in my head – Like standing in the middle of that motorway or next to a waterfall trying to have a phone call. Living with it is pretty unpleasant. Since I’ve started to embrace my inner self, the noise has gone away. Occasionally I still get triggered by something like a bad photo or some incidental encounter and it catches me with surprising intensity.
What has it felt like with this secret inside?
I’ve been truly alone my entire life. I told no-one until 3 years ago. Up until that point I could talk to people about mutual friends and work and whatever, but it was like I was stood on the other side of a chasm. They could never cross and neither could I. Nobody could ever know me & I could never really have close friendships. I even married someone and it never occurred to me that I could share my secret. After I started talking to people (and they didn’t run a mile) I got a taste of real relationships.
To give you an idea how hard and confusing it’s been with this stuff in my head and trying to fit in: I used to have this fantasy that I’d get a terminal illness, so I’d have a few months to say good bye and I could die and not have to feel this way any more. I had that wish in my head for over ten years. I’m telling you this not for sympathy – but just to express how hard it is to live with this level of confusion and incongruity between how you feel and how you live.
How long have you been doing this?
I had a very few intermittent incidents of cross dressing throughout my childhood. I didn’t really do it too much because I knew it was wrong somehow. I didn’t really do it again for many years – because it could never go anywhere. After my marriage failed 3 years ago, I decided to start experimenting. I went out to clubs and other social things, but ended up meeting a lot of people that felt “not like me”. So I went through several phases of suppressing it and re-exploration. I made the decision that I was going to do this at the end of 2014.
OK – So why now?
I felt like I was getting less good at outrunning the dark feelings inside…. Like I was being pursued by a pack of wolves. As I got older I seemed less able to outrun them and the intensity of their attacks was greater. I’d had a pretty horrible few years. I had a last ditch attempt at trying to live my male life… I bought an expensive car… because that’s what men do. I ran off to the other side of the world for a trip – but as they say “wherever you go there you are” – deep inside it all still felt wrong. Eventually I stumbled across a few pieces of information that made me realise that transition was possible and more importantly if I didn’t – my future was not very nice. So I found a psychotherapist and said “I need to either find a way of letting all this go or making the leap”. We never discussed the first option.
It’s lucky you ended up in Brighton – there’s a lot of it around here…
Yeah – it’s like I planned it or something. 😉
So is this a Sex thing? Are you gay?
I don’t know why this question comes up so much… Maybe because In LGBT(QIA), three of the letters are to do with sexuality and the last one is about gender. Maybe because the word transexual has sex in it. Transgender people feel some degree of incongruity between their inner feeling of gender and the sex they were assigned at birth (based on their physical sex organs). This has nothing to do with sexuality. Some trans people are straight, some are gay and some are bi… Just like everyone else.
For my part I am not sure any particular label works for me so well. Before I transitioned I was “straight” all my life.
When I started to unpack these feelings I quickly started to question whether I was attracted to women or simply envied their physical characteristics. At that point I lost my sexuality overnight. Also the medication had a massive dampening effect on all that.
I’m currently in a relationship with a woman. I’m obviously deeply attracted to her both intellectually and sexually. So maybe that makes me a gay woman or a lesbian? But those are such binary terms.
I’m not really bi-sexual either as in reality I’m much more often attracted to women. But I am occasionally attracted to men. Generally speaking though – I like my men like I like my coffee: Away from my genitals…. But I do think about it sometimes. Hetero-curious then?
For me, a big component of my sexuality is becoming attracted to the person and the physicality follows. There are labels like demi-sexual, but they always need explanation.
My partner sometimes describes herself as “not straight” – I like that label – it kind of works for me. Other times I might describe myself as queer. When I’m being lazy I might fall back on more common terms like lesbian as it’s mostly true. The reality is my sexuality, like my gender is evolving and I will probably spend the rest of my life musing over both.
Which toilet do you use?
This always seems to be an emotive issue.
I cannot see any good reason for people to have issue with trans people using the correct bathroom.
If you’re a woman – all the stalls are private, so there’s nothing to see either way. At most, the contact you’ll have with us, will be waiting for a stall or seeing one of us touch up our makeup. I promise you – trans women in public facilities are far more scared of you than you are of them.
If you’re a man – many trans men haven’t had lower surgery, so will be using a stall, so nothing to see. And for those trans men that can stand to pee, they won’t be looking at you and you won’t be looking at them.
But more importantly… #wejustneedtopee
Are you going to get a “sex change”? (and all less tactful variants of this question)
It’s usually the men that just have to ask this and usually don’t do it so tactfully. As an aside “sex change is a term that’s fallen out of fashion as it oversimplifies the reality and for many people doesn’t reflect the surgical correction what they perceive to be a birth defect.
Anyway… the question. I’m moderately open about this – but I’m having GRS with Dr Suporn in Thailand in September 2016. My reasons for chosoing him were not because it’s quicker or cheaper (because it wasn’t) but because he offers a completely different technique that all other western surgeons. I wrote about it here.