This week has been a long week and now, at the end of it, I find myself both at the end and at the beginning once again. The week started with a consultation about top surgery, then moved on to my second appointment at the Gender Clinic. Stories seem best told from start to finish so I will begin with the consultation.
THE FOLLOWING IS NOT SUITABLE FOR WORK! CONTAINS MENTION OF GENITALS, SEX AND MASTURBATION.
I’ve mentioned before that I have sought surgery privately, and the reasons why here. I won’t repeat myself, however this time was more thorough. I had a full examination and sat on a bed with a surgeon eye height to my nipples, having my chest lifted and pulled measured – it was humiliating but unfortunately a necessity for me. Once everything was discussed, the risks (losing my nipples, loss of sensation, bleeding, aneasthesia etc) I had a provisional appointment. Now I just needed a second Gender Clinic doctor to put their signature to my diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
And so on to the Gender Clinic. Once again I dressed on the morning with the idea of being a fully masculine as I could – after all I have to convince another doctor, a psychologist, of my gender identity. I went through similar rigmarole of last time, with less discussion of sex. For anyone who doesn’t know, the gender clinic isn’t just a nice chat. It is by far THE MOST probing, intimate and thorough interview you will ever have. I had to take documents to prove my name change and living in my chosen gender. I had to write an autobiography describing growing up and when I began to question my gender. I was asked about my genitals and whether I liked them or not (i.e. do I want bottom surgery). Now, to be honest this was a walk in the park compared to 5 months ago when the previous doctor had asked how I had sex, how often, if I masturbated and how. I mean….well seriously? What does it matter? Trans people have sex drives too and it doesn’t really matter how they get off, it doesn’t matter if a trans man likes penetrative sex or not…because genitals to not equal gender.Unfortunately the consultants at gender clinics don’t seem to have learnt this yet.
Nevertheless, I navigated the process successfully and I now have the required 2 signatures for top surgery. I have a date. It is happening. This. Shit. Just. Got. REAL.
OK PEOPLE IT’S SUITABLE CONTENT AGAIN, YOU CAN READ AGAIN NOW!
So I have come to the end, almost. Certainly the end is in sight, the goal of having top surgery and not needing to bind anymore. However I am also back at the beginning, discovering if I want to take hormone therapies, back to coming out again, back to trying to aptly describe my gender and my gender presentation.
I now stand at the cross roads trying to decide which way to proceed. Don’t get me wrong, the surgery will go forward, that is not in question, but until now I have reluctantly accepted that I am read as a woman and glossed over it. However, how do I explain the surgery and *transition* to people, how do I continue on as a person that doesn’t tick any boxes? In so many instances I have to pick a side, pick a gender, pick a box to tick either male or female. Right now, female doesn’t suit me, in fact I despise having that label attached to me and my heart sinks every time I stand outside the toilets or changing rooms and pick the women’s. Right now, I have breasts and hips and a “female” body, but going forward, I will have a male presenting body (as I desire and choose). So which side do I pick? And can I really pass as male without hormone treatments? The likelihood of my having testosterone is low due to complex health problems that will most likely prohibit this. Is top surgery enough to allow me to navigate life in the binary lanes as a man? Do I want to?
Recently I have found myself having the same conversations with different people and it goes something like this. I am non binary. I know this. I like the pronouns they/them and being neither a man nor a woman, though I do want to be masculine (there is a difference between gender and presentation, see the genderbread man here). In a world which is divided into male and female (squares and circles), I am the other. I am a hexagon.
Look I even drew a diagram!
I can round my edges and be feminine, or square up and be masculine. I can be read as a woman, or a man. And navigating life as a non binary person often comes down to this; knowing you sit in the middle somewhere (or off the page entirely) and yet having to choose which shape you will wear for other people to see. Knowing inside that I am non binary, I am masculine but not a man. But also knowing that the majority of the world with which I will have contact will not understand this and will force a choice out of me. It sucks that this is how it is, it sucks that society is blind to so many people. I remain optimistic that the world is changing and moving forward, that public transgender figures are being given more of a platform to share their experiences and transgender issues are talked about more. I am optimistic that the LGBT (especially the T*) community are becoming more visible and our voices are being taken more seriously. I am optimistic that one day, maybe not this week or month or year…but one day I will be able to introduce myself as “Hi I’m LJ, they/them pronouns” and not have to launch into a masters degree level dissertation lecture about gender and singular they pronouns.
I remain optimistic and hopeful because that is sometimes all that I can do. Things have got better, they are getting better and they will be better than this.
Hang in there.
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