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Choices

Janett Scott & Tamara Wilding

President and Vice President: Beaumont Society
Gendys Conference, 2004

 

 
As we go through life, we realise that there are choices to be made, sometimes the choices are made for us, and sometimes we have no choice, but we are made the way we are by Nature and nurture mixed.

We do not have a choice, whether we are male or female, that is a selection from our father's input during the conception that starts us off. He does not even know how it happens or has any say in the matter. Well he knows how the conception bit works, but loses interest after that part.

From that moment on, once we are conceived, until our early years, any choices that are made, are either by nature or nurture; whether we are homosexual or heterosexual, whether we are male or female, as well as feeling like a boy or a girl. As we grow and develop, we find to some extent, a level of confusion about our feelings and emotions. By the time we reach our puberty, for some of us, those confusions become too much to understand, so we fall back on nurture, to help us. But as nurture itself, sometimes are other people's choices, we still find that we had no choice.

We are born either male or female, so by nurture we are treated as such. Boys have certain toys, girls have other toys. Sometimes we can share each other's toys, especially if we are brothers and sisters. But we are so conditioned that dolls are girl's things, and tanks and guns are boy's things. Sometimes if we show too much interest in her toys, or she in our's, we are strongly discouraged from having or showing that interest.

When, at an early age, our clothes or style of clothes are chosen for us, depending in what age we were born or, in some cases, which social standing, we were born into. In many of the royal or noble households up to the early 20th Century, boys and girls, until around the age of six or seven years would be dressed in very similar style of clothing, which we would now see as feminine, even to the wearing of skirts and petticoats on young boys. This was not some form of punishment or gender discipline, but just how clothing for young children was seen in those situations.

Our education, or which school we went to, was another example of choices to be made by others, again depending on our social status, whether it was a boys' school, or a girls' school, or if it was a mixed school, we also found segregation in the education.

I remember when I was at senior school, I preferred to be in the girls' part of the playground, which led to elements of bullying from some of the other boys, or threats of being 'Put in a dress', by some of the teachers, and 'being put with the girls in the classroom. It was in the 1940'& 50's, so they could get away with it in those days. I often fantasized of being punished in this way, but instead I would be very embarrassed, and go all red - girls blushed, boys went red faced.

As teenagers, we do have a certain amount of control over our choices; who our friends are, sometimes chance also begins to play a part in those choices, but many aspects of our emerging Transgender feelings, are usually very low in comparison, and we make choices on friendships, partly through chance, but usually through compatibility. That is why many of us have life long friends, who remain friends even through the changes that life gives us. Marriage, children, divorce or death of a partner, and for some of us and for some of those friends, the biggest change that we ourselves can make, that of changing our Gender.

That is often a choice beyond our control. It can sometimes cost us dearly, but again that is a choice that others make for themselves.When we finish our education and choose a career, we believe in most cases that it is something that we are going to follow most of our lives. If not in the same company, at least in the same career or profession. But generally we made the choice, sometimes with help or guidance from others with more experience. But when or if the time comes to make a career change, we do it ourselves, we make the choice. We make the choice often based on new experiences, or a change of circumstances, or simply a change of interest.

I have spoken to many people in our community, of whom some spent up to 22 years in the Armed forces, then decided to change their gender. Their feelings towards making that change, seem to grow stronger as they grew older. That choice was outside their control, in many ways.

But when I asked them why they waited so long before deciding what to do, I always got the answer that they "Could do nothing about it before, because they were in the Army/Air Force, and they hated every moment". They had a choice to leave at any time, you don't spend nearly 20 years doing something you hate, but they chose not to leave.

That's fine I don't have a problem with that, but it was a choice. You can't turn it around later and say I had no choice. It is quite common for many of us to believe that we have no choice, when in fact we do, but choose not to use it.

I lived with my feelings of Transgender for many years, I was married with children, in that time I often felt that I could find more happiness as a 'Woman', but was afraid to make that decision. I was married and had children, 'I had no choice'. What I really meant was, I chose to keep the status quo, and go for the easier option.

After my children had grown up and were self sufficient, I could have gone forward then to becoming a woman, but I knew my wife would not accept that, and that we would have to be divorced. I knew or thought I knew that I could not continue to carry on working in my job as a Telephone Engineer, as a 'woman', and that without the wages I was used to, and a home that would have to be split between us, I would have too much to lose. I chose to stay.

Again my choice. Circumstances have a way of making choices for us. At the age of only 51, my wife died from a heart attack. I was 53.

After getting over the shock of her death, I threw myself into many aspects of the Trannie scene, at that time I was a member of the TV/TS Support Group in London, and I would spend every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at their place in French Place, Stepney. I worked mostly behind the tea bar, but also did some telephone support work. I did that for over a year, and made many friends who I still have to this day. It was during this time that the co-ordinators of the TV/TS. Support Group, organised a weekend in Scarborough, to bring together all the different support groups in the UK. It was there that I met among others. Jenny Baker, Helen Fisher, and Martine Rose.

The outcome for me from that weekend, was to rejoin the Beaumont Society, that I had originally joined in around 1969. For many of us at that first Scarborough Weekend, was the opportunity to meet some of our sisters from around the UK, and Ireland. Many new friends were made that weekend. And the chance to meet the support groups.

Just over a year after my wife died, and I had moved from the home we built together, I started a new life for myself, but because of the problems that I saw with so many that I met, who had chosen to go the transsexual route, especially those from my own age group, I had decided not to follow the route of hormones and surgery - My choice.

I also around this time resigned from the TV/TS Support Group, and put my energies into the Beaumont Society, now that I had become a committee member. A year later I was nominated President.

In late 1991, circumstances again took a turn, and at the age of 57, I was offered early retirement with a full company pension. I grabbed it with both hands. I had planned on making a Gender change to my lifestyle, but not with surgery or hormones, as I explained earlier, when I was due to retire at 60. This chance out of the blue, was a prayer answered, so I took it. My choice. My story from then on is history.

My need to want to live as a woman, was a choice given to me by Nature, how I chose to express that need was my choice.

We have choices to make all the time, how we dress, for our age would be a start, how we interact with others, with patience and fortitude hopefully, how we live our lives, with pride but not with an 'in your face' attitude. Just some of the choices we make.

Choices.

This is probably quite a contentious title. I'm sure, like me, many of you listening to me now will be saying 'What choice?'And for most us, this is very true.

We were born with a gender we did not want, and many of us have taken steps since to correct that situation, like myself perhaps, going all the way through to surgical reassignment. But perhaps that isn't what we mean by Choices. We all make choices, every day, what to have for breakfast, how we will travel to work, where we will live, who our friends are, or do we?

We know that we are all technically 'free', but in reality, the actions and choices we can make are all limited by our individual circumstances. Sometimes people ring us about their gender issues, and many, many times, their worry, complaint, or overriding theme is that they cannot free themselves from circumstances that restrict their progress towards their ideal state of being. They say they are helpless, for this or that reason or because of some responsibility or another. As very many of us know, living in a 'new' gender is a very drastic step. Family, friends, and work colleagues often do not react well to the changes. Fear of rejection is something most trans people are familiar with, and is one of the barriers to change most often quoted by callers. Although things do work out quite well for some people, we in the Beaumont Society do not advise people to 'come out' to family, friends or work colleagues, because that could have negative consequences. We do listen and suggest that callers try to come to one of the Support group meetings, where possible, or get in touch with one of our Sister organisations, or join the society and get in touch with one of our Big Sisters.

However, this in itself is a choice. Some people do not feel able to attend a meeting, or receive post. For them the Internet may offer a source of information, and comradeship, but what concerns us is the amount of 'bad' or inaccurate information that is out there. And there seem to be quite a lot of fantasy TS's, who live exclusively in Chat rooms (and nowhere else). This behaviour, too, is a choice, but not a positive choice. And this is the difficulty. How can you help people to make the right choice for themselves?

Indeed, how can anyone of us truly know what will make someone else happy and content? Only they themselves can know that, but they can be helped to see all their options, and that is what the BS tries to do. The BS holds that there is 'no right way' to be Trans, except that the individual respects others and does not place themselves in danger through their own actions. However, we all have to take responsibility for our actions and for our own happiness.

There has been a lot in the Press over the last year or so, about the legal action against a certain Psychiatrist dealing with gender dysphoria. The Beaumont Society has written a letter of support for this Psychiatrist, who we hold in high regard.

This brings us back to an important issue, people should always be encouraged to take responsibility for their own welfare.

It's no good blaming other people, when things fervently wished for at the time, turn out to be the wrong choice. They cannot judge every outcome, or how someone will truly feel. It often worries me when I see people trying to conform to a label, because they believe that the label is somehow more respectable or has more status. I have even witnessed people I know well, changing their own life history to support their new self diagnosis! Strangely these people have sometimes insisted to me, that they were always transsexual, when only a year before the same person was saying that they were content as a crossdresser.

Now, we in the Beaumont Society, have no problem with people wanting to live as women, have surgery, etc. Many of us have taken that route ourselves, but what does worry us is, why some people feel the need to conform to a stereotypical transsexual identity.

To me, it seems that many of these individuals are putting the stereotype before their own natures and their own well-being. By adopting an accepted stereotype they are obscuring their own needs by trying to live up to the ideals of others.

We are all unique, and we do all have different but similar needs.

The individual who is a crossdresser can have found her niche and be having a very happy and contented life. Likewise the transsexual can also have found her niche and be content. Both of these choices are equally valid as long as they bring happiness to the individual involved.

Unfortunately, some parts of the Trans community do not see these choices as being equally valid, and through their attitude have created a 'them and us' atmosphere.

This has increased pressure on individuals to conform to a standard transsexual stereotype, and sometimes caused them to distance themselves from the very people and support networks that could help them.

Personally, I would suggest anyone wishing to have gender reassignment should check out all the options available before committing themselves to just one possibility. And to take things slowly.

Give themselves time to think and experience various aspects of the Transgender lifestyle, and to decide whether it is something they wish to embrace for the rest of their life. By exploring the possibilities, the individual has more chance to find their own niche, the place where they will be most happy. After all, being transgendered is a quest for happiness and self acceptance, and if we don't understand ourselves and know what we need, how will we ever find it.

Closure.

So there we have it, CHOICES seen from different view points, but in the end the final choice has to be our own. The success or failure of our acceptance into Society, in our choice of Gender, is finally down to whether we make the right choice at the right time, if there is ever aright time. Society has changed over the last 20 years, and that change is getting faster and more positive. We still have quite a way to go, but in my term as President of the Beaumont Society the changes have been quite far reaching.

By far the biggest change has been getting back the right to change our birth certificates, and there will be other great changes to come in the not too distant future I am sure When I was in my teens and early twenties, to be caught out in public dressed as a female, while a 'Man', could have led me to be arrested held in the police cells overnight, and taken before the Magistrate in the morning, where I would have been fined and 'Bound over to keep the Peace', and probably humiliated by the police officers arresting me.

These days, there are many of us working closely with the police, or serving as Women police officers or as male police officers. We have Transgender members of the Army and Air Force. We have Transgender people in prison, who are accepted for gender treatment and receiving Gender reassignment surgery.

We have made great strides in being accepted by official government bodies, yet we are still not accepting the differences between ourselves. I do find it saddening when members of different support groups, can't find a common ground to accept each other. It has to begin at the top.

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Citation: Scott, J., Wilding, T., (2004), Choices, GENDYS 2004, The Eighth International Gender Dysphoria Conference, Manchester England.
 
Web page copyright GENDYS Network. Text copyright of the author. Last amended 28.06.06