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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Am I a "real woman"? Thoughts on Transition from the wrong side of age 60 - TC Guest Post

A guest post, by Laura-Ann Charlot, of the River City Gems.  (guest posts are always welcome)

laura_ann.072 at

A transwoman friend of mine - I'll call her "Grace" here, to protect her privacy -  was recently in a conversation with a cis-woman friend of hers, who repeatedly used the phrase "a real woman", in a context that implied that Grace isn't one. Grace's transition, now in it's 5th year, has proceeded as far as HRT, but she has not had any feminizing or gender re-assignment surgeries, and she might never have any; that is her choice to make, and she doesn't feel any pressing need to have any gender transition surgeries at the moment. Now Grace is about 20 years younger than I am, and by anyone's standards, I would say that she is drop-dead beautiful, even with no makeup, in grubby clothes to do gardening or housework, and with her own not-very-long hair instead of the much longer wigs she wears most of the time. But what makes a woman? Is it an "X" chromosome? Ovaries and a uterus? If so, we M-to-F trasgender persons are doomed to second-class status in the perception of woman-purists, I guess.

At least for however much time I am likely to have on this Earth, there will not be any way for a geneticist to clone a female reproductive tract for me in a laboratory, or any surgeon with the skill to install those "parts" inside me even if they were available. Besides which, I'm 61, and a bit past the age of child-bearing, I think. So what makes me, or my friend Grace, go about claiming to be women?

Since I can't ever have female "pieces and parts", there must be something else that makes me think "I am not a guy anymore, assuming I ever really was one in my mind; I am now a woman (or a transwoman, if you prefer)". Without those ovaries, I have to use estradiol supplied externally, and I have to take androgen blocking drugs to suppress my testosterone (at least until I have GRS, if I ever do). Then there are my physical attributes, most of which can't ever be made to look womanly: I'm 6'-2" tall in flats, with the typical broad shoulders, big hands, and narrow pelvic bone of a born-male, and I am a lot bigger in almost every proportion - except the two that I'd like to be bigger - than most natal women. I know that I need to lose weight, so speaking to my current 300 pound bulk, which makes me a favorite customer of certain purveyors of plus-size women's clothing, that at least I have in my power to do something about. A surgeon can at least partially correct the structure of my facial bones, but there's simply nothing to be done about those shoulders, hands, and the un-feminine ratio of my hip to waist sizes.

How about my presentation? My state of mind? My self-perception of who I am? Ah, now we approach the important core of the matter. There are times when I feel pretty, like last night as I was getting ready to join some River City Gems friends at a GNO party. I wore a very nice, knee length knit dress in a dark green and blue pattern, my favorite pair of boots, in a medium brown shade of faux-suede with 2-1/2" block heels, very comfortable, and very feminine; I felt wonderful wearing that outfit. And it's not often that I wear a dress, I am a skirt-and-blouse girl. I received several compliments on my outfit and my makeup last night, and not just from my Gems friends, but from a couple of cis-women too.

But those other times, oh Lord, when I don't feel so pretty: those times, usually in the cold light of morning, when my back is hurting and I feel every minute of my 61 years weighing on me. When I know that I look like the aftermath of a really bad train-wreck, or like death on a cracker, with my hair looking like a bird's nest that someone just exploded with an M-80 firecracker, no makeup on my blotchy, worn-out face, no jewelry, nail polish coming off in chunks because I haven't had a mani/pedi for two months, and my legs, at least the part showing under the hem of my skirt, looking like hell because I'm not hiding them under hosiery at the moment.

I look in the mirror, bleary-eyed, but what I see isn't "him" any more, despite the awful condition I am in when I first climb out of bed in the morning: I see Laura-Ann - there she is! - and I smile, thinking, "Wow, I'm still alive, I get one more day to be myself. To appreciate the gifts I have been given, and to love my family, my friends, and myself. To interact with the world as a woman (who happens to be transgender). One more day to hold my beautiful Pauline in my arms and have some cuddle time with her."

In that moment, it doesn't matter if I get mis-gendered on a phone call, or dead-named by someone who has known me for 25 years and is so used to calling me "Larry" that using that name is automatic. I know that being mis-gendered and dead-named by my friends and family isn't being done with malicious intent, and that even total strangers who do it don't intend to hurt me. I have a deep male voice that's stuck somewhere between bass and baritone, and it's just a fact of life that I'll be mis-gendered from time to time because of it. But what the hell, when I look in that early-morning mirror, and my first thought is "Laura-Ann, you look like hell but you are a happy girl this morning", that is all any of us can ask for, I think.

To love myself, at last, and to know, as I approach the start of the 17th month of my HRT next week, that gender transition was the right choice, and the path I really needed to take; the joy I live in now is all the justification I need. If I were to have a conversation like Grace did, with a friend who is unwittingly using language that de-legitimises my womanhood, I hope I will remember these things, and not take umbrage at being called out as transgender and not "a real woman". Okay, I am not a cis-gender woman, I got that. I will never have ovaries, or a uterus, or ever know what it feels like to give birth to a new human being, or to have a girl's childhood experiences of playing with Barbie dolls instead of Tonka trucks. But I had a mostly joyous life as husband to a wonderful woman, now sadly deceased way before she should have left this world, and almost all of what I know about this Universe, and my place in it, and about people, and relationships, came from my life experience as Larry, as the guy that I thought I was. I would be foolish to reject that life now. I like the way Sabrina Symington, a transwoman and graphic artist in Vancouver, B.C. puts it: "The best parts of the guy I was are still a part of me, and all we had to throw away in our transition was the sadness". I couldn't say it better.

If any of you reading this are in the early stages of transition, or haven't started HRT or even gender therapy yet, don't let other people who may not have your best interests at heart influence you unduly. Only you, yourself, can decide who you are, where you want to go in life, and how you want to get there. If something inside you is whispering that your assigned-at-birth gender doesn't feel right, those are whisperings that you should heed, and spend however much time you need to understand them. You should at least consult a gender therapist if you are in any distress about your gender. A good therapist will not tell you specifically that you are, or are not, transgender; his or her job is to help you understand who and what you are for yourself, in your own mind, and then to help you make whatever decisions you need to make, yourself. Transition isn't necessarily difficult, but it isn't easy, either. Especially if you are married, and/or have a job in a State that doesn't provide legal protections to your employment as a transgender person, you will face difficulties. But if you look around, you can usually find transgender support resources in the larger towns and cities, and good therapists.

Whatever decisions you arrive at, like whether to transition or not, to have GRS or not, and how/when to let your loved ones know you are trans, if you decide that you are and need to transition, I hope you will find the love and acceptance that I did when I came out. This world is a long way from being a perfect place for anyone who is LGBTQ, but it's slowly getting better. Good luck, and best wishes for the upcoming Holidays and the start of 2018 in seven weeks.  

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article, thank you. I’m also 61, and transitioning (in 3rd month of HRT) and living more fully than ever, entirely out of the closet, authentically. Sure, I will always with I’d been born female or started my transition decades ago. It is what it is!


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