some FAQs

(this  is pasted over from my blog, and is from an MtF perspective. Added here as it may be useful. Dru)
A lot of people don’t know very much about transsexuality or transgender or any of those words that start with trans- We really don’t mind answering questions (we’re less keen on answering those offensive-remarks-disguised-as-questions, but it’s easy to spot the difference between them and genuine interest, so don’t worry about putting your foot in it).
But you never know, you might find an answer here. These are all questions that I have been asked and that still tend to get asked. The repeatable ones, anyway…

Why is the terminology important and what do you now call yourself?

Terminology is important because words can be used as weapons- ‘tranny’, for instance, is offensive because it has so often been used offensively. They can also be used to objectify and to ‘other’ you- there is a difference between describing someone as ‘a transsexual’ and describing them as ‘a transsexual woman’, or indeed describing them as a ‘woman’, or a woman. If pushed (because sometimes you need to put things in context in places like this)  I would describe myself as a trans woman (it’s less clunky than the full version) or possibly as a woman with a transsexual history. But mostly I’m just me.

What’s the difference between a transvestite and a transsexual (if that’s the correct term)?

About two years, as the joke says. But really… transvestites identify as males who like to present sometimes as women. Transsexual people identify as the sex other than that assigned them at birth. Some trans people pass through a stage where their actions are similar to those of transvestites. Still… I don’t think that the distinction between the two groups is as clear-cut as all that; gender identity can be a bit of a spectrum, and some people identify as genderqueer, too… neither man, woman, transvestite, transsexual or anything else.

Why bother going through all the pain of the op?  Why not just dress as a woman and pretend?

The op was only part of the process; the effect of hormones is important too. And the result of hormonal and surgical intervention is that I feel more comfortable and ‘at home’ in my body. It’s about being authentic, being true to myself, and being seen as that true self. So dressing up and pretending isn’t really the answer.

Are you glad that you did it?

I had reached the point where I simply had to do it. I’m glad I did it, and I’m glad I’ve got those first years behind me too…

Does it start out as thinking that you’re gay?

No. I quite hated the thought of being thought of as gay, in fact. Maybe because of the absence of femininity in male gay relationships. I’m more relaxed about men these days. And about describing myself as lesbian.

Why do more men than women want to change gender?

I suspect that it’s because everyone starts out in the womb as female, and then the action of hormones in the womb changes some foetuses into males. And sometimes they don’t do a complete job of it. On the other hand, the number of people transitioning from female to male seems to be increasing…

Do you really think that you can live a normal life as a woman?

Can anyone? I feel far more normal now than I used to. For me, my sex is what I am, and my gender is what I perform, in the sense of my social interaction; how I present to, interact with and am hopefully perceived by the world. I felt out of place as a male. Being (or performing, if you prefer) female just works for me.

Why do transsexuals often behave in a very exaggerated female way?

Do they? Thinking of the trans women I know, I’m not sure that they do. And ‘transsexual’ is an adjective, remember? –actually, at least in the early stages of transition, I would adopt as many female signifiers as possible, because I felt insecure and I wanted to ‘pass’. I’m more relaxed about things now.  Are you thinking of drag queens?

If you were, say, born in a female body, then realigned to male would you then fancy females or does that not follow?

Hard to say. Though if I fancied females before transitioning, then I would probably carry on doing so afterwards. That’s how it was for me, doing it the other way round. Gender identity is different from sexuality.

Have you had the op yet? Did it hurt when they cut it off? Are they real?

Imagine that you are at work, or in the library, or in the pub, and someone you don’t know very well or don’t know at all comes over to you and questions you about your genitals, and then tries to grope your chest. How would you react? What would you think of that person? Yes, me too. There’s probably a book to be written about how people can think that this sort of thing is acceptable. Oh, hang on, there is a book!


1 Response to some FAQs

  1. Did you know that Bristol was the first council to have a trans councillor, and the first to transition on the job (which I don’t think anybody has been daft enough to try anywhere since)? That was me. The Council officers were (mostly) very helpful but the then-controlling Labour Group was much less so and even outright hostile (with a couple of honourable exceptions, notably Cllrs Rosemary Clarke and Rosalie Walker – when we sat together on Social Services Committee they called us the Rose bed, and they offered me the Chair of the Women’s Committee although I politely declined that. It took the District Labour Party about 15 months to decide I would not be permitted to defend my Redland seat, rather less for the national party to start quietly briefing against me. When I left all the outgoing Labour members but me were made honorary aldermen! But there you go – that was so last century!

    I live quite happily in Glasgow now, hoping to get married to my lesbian partner in the spring and now identifying as Woman, with Trans being a part of my history.

    Good luck!

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