One of the most difficult things about a late onset transgender awakening is trying to understand how the hell you can spend most of your life accepting your social gender, and then suddenly it all falls apart and the very gender you used to accept now seems as alien to you as if you had been born female. And it’s made all the more mysterious by encountering early onset transsexuals who ‘always knew’…when in your own case it’s more like…’I didn’t know shit.’
Thinking that it’s impossible you ‘didn’t know shit,’ you then go back on a Stalinist attempt to change your own history, inserting some female essence here and there. “Ahh…now I see, the time I chose a pink jumper when I was ten…that was my inner girl at work.”
Personally, I have many moments I could choose, but when I analyse them in the cold light of day they don’t suggest anything other than a girlish tendency, and as the whole notion of ‘girlish’ is culturally relative, it doesn’t mean anything. As I say in my book ‘Autogynephilia’ even a tendency to be extremely boyish in childhood can be interpreted as being hyper-masculine in an attempt to kill off the inner girl.
The resolution to this – and a resolution I have espoused myself in numerous podcasts and articles – is the idea of hardcore repression. There is virtually no sign of the inner girl before transgender awakening because she has been so brutally and totally suppressed, she can’t even get as much as a peek in.
This idea stems from the most prevalent and widely accepted narrative of transgender development: that you always were a girl but you didn’t know it and/or you wouldn’t accept it.
I have to say that I’ve never been truly comfortable with this narrative. While it works well for early onset transsexuals it just seems far removed from my own experience. I mean, I don’t want to sound stupid…but how can you be a girl and not know it? But on the other hand, I know that that is the whole basis of being transgender: you’re knocking about in the wrong body so there’s no way you can know it (unless you’re one of those pesky early onsetters who ‘always knew’.)
So, I get it. It’s both a metaphor but also real in a sense…and it’s a useful narrative for making sense of your past. But I repeat…I’ve never really been comfortable with it.
The reason is probably my Irish blood. We are pessimists, we are cautious, we know when something’s too good to be true, and the whole idea that you were a girl all along is just too much of a fairy tale ending.
“And then the princess realised that she was a girl all along…The End.”
Call me dark, or call me Irish, but I like a Game of Thrones style ending…blood, tears and ale.
“And then the princess realized she was just a guy in a dress and so, taking a long draught of ale, she cursed the Gods and impaled herself on her sword…The End. “
(Sorry, please go back and erase the previous five lines. If you are a follower of my blog then you already know I have a very dark sense of humor.)
Anyway, the other day I was reading about the clown fish and an idea suddenly occurred to me: maybe I was a man…and then I suddenly turned into a woman. And in case you think I’m continuing with the black comedy, I’m not.
As you probably know, clown fish are a hierarchical species and the absolute ruler and boss is a woman. But she’s a woman with a difference…she used to be a man, because when the dominant female dies the dominant male changes sex and takes her place. (I wonder if he develops a narrative that he ‘always knew’ or he’s in the ‘I didn’t know shit’ camp.)
The clown fish is exhibiting what is known as sequential hermaphroditism – a phenomona observed in many species of fish, gastropoda and plants. Some of these animals have both female and male germ cells in their birth genitalia and can undergo complete transformation of the genitalia to that of the other gender. If anyone from Merc or Glaxo smith is reading this…get some fucking researchers down the sea, extract those mother fucking genes, put them in a pill and I’ll test them myself.
The idea of gender change – rather than suppressed gender – gained further currency with me when I was reading about experiments with silver foxes.
The scientific motives behind these experiments are the genetic changes hummans have caused in animals they have tamed – cows, sheeps, dogs etc. The researchers wanted to see how quickly they could induce changes in a wild animal by taming them, so they spent twenty years breeding foxes, each time selecting the tamest foxes to breed with each other. The results were incredible.
After just twenty years…the foxes had changed colour and developed the black and white coat of a collie. Their noses had become less pronounced and they had developed cuter, floppy ears rather than pointed ones, and – even more curiously – they completely changed their breeding cycle from once a year to all year round. And this was in only twenty years.
Now, you may be disappointed not to hear a profound tale of gender change with the foxes, but what interested me was the pliability of body and reproductive habits, and more generally, the incredible capacity for change which living organisms display. As we have seen, this can be in the course of a life – like the caterpillar or clown fish – or over a few generations: the silver fox.
What if…humans can change genders? In other words, why do we have to presume that a late onset transgender woman was always a girl but she just didn’t know it. Maybe humans have the capacity to change genders just as other organisms do. This would not have to be anatomical because humans have culture and language and dress and numerous modes of being available to them to express such a change which animals don’t have.
Obviously, sudden gender change wouldn’t happen to any old male. clearly, it would happen to those that were susceptible to it…most notably, lifelong crossdreamers who had spent their entire lives already conceptualized as females in their sexual fantasies.
The interesting thing is, that while such an idea seems to be sacrilegious to accepted transgender theory, it is actually much more in line with contemporary gender theory. The other narrative is cisbiased because the proponent is saying that a man can not possibly become a woman…he must have been a woman all along but wasn’t able to recognise it. This idea smacks of gender binary and the idea that gender is carved in stone – you are either one or the other (even though the genitalia may be mixed up.) The idea of sudden gender change in susceptible individuals is much more gender fluid and compatible with the idea that people can be one thing and then the other and there doesn’t have to be complex explanations or evidence of feminine essence.
In a world where people just accept that people change genders rather than discover their true gender…it is much more easy to accept a sudden change in your colleague, Bob. When Bob comes to the office one Monday morning and announces he’s a girl then you think nothing of it because you know that people change genders. But when you believe he was always a girl trapped in a boy’s body you start thinking about Bob in the past. “But he used to love slagging off women…he used to love football…he used to etc. etc.” Bob is kind of on trial.
Personally, although I find the idea of sudden gender change interesting, I think it’s unlikely to catch on. Human beings need tidy narratives with a beginning, middle and an end. While we all love a twist, sudden, spontaneous gender change probably jarrs a little with the reader. The main thing we should take away from the concept, however, is that maybe we should relax a little when it comes to the great personal quest to prove we were always girls. As our friend, the clownfish shows, sudden gender change is possible in nature.
If you want to continue this little chat on transgender psychology, buy one of my (or JAck’s) ebooks on Amazon. xx