The Woman Within My Mind

Trying to cope with life as a transsexual

Rebecca - membership 072


Issue 8
November 1999

A transsexual girl won the Eurovision Song Contest, much to the delight of the media, who were far more interested in her sexuality than her ability as a singer. In the press in the there have been other cases of people changing their sex. It aroused quite a lot of salacious media interest at the time, and an abysmal amount of misunderstanding. What enormous pressures must these people have been under? There have been doctors, teachers, university lecturers. Not unintelligent members of society, but driven to take a step which is still socially unacceptable, open to all forms of ridicule. Well I have been there. I know those pressures. This is my story.

I am a transsexual. It has always been my secret, my burden, the cause of all my emotional turmoil the driving force behind every waking moment.

I have known that something was wrong with me or rather different, almost as long as I have been alive. I never felt I was in the wrong body, as many transsexuals describe; rather that there was this female person within me. Not in the way of a schizophrenic; rather as an extension or addition to my own psyche.

Since I was a child I have been aware that things with me were not right. I felt that I should have been a girl. I can remember as a young child lying in bed at night and praying to God to correct this awful mistake. But nothing ever happened. I suspect that this was when the seeds of my atheism were first sown. If there really is a God, how could He make so many awful mistakes? Like inventing mosquitoes and spiders, and doing this to me.

My parents were traditional 'Janet and John' types, where Father went to work, and Mother stayed at home and looked after the family, my younger sister and I. Father was very Victorian and unapproachable in his manner. Life to him was a series of set rituals. I now realise it was his way of coping. Mother, on the other hand, had, I suspect, been a fun-loving extrovert before she was married. Sadly she became totally dominated by my father, and lost most of her confidence. I used to hate my father for what I perceived as his lack of humanity, his inability to ever give me a kind or encouraging word. I now realise that what I disliked was really his inadequacy as a parent. He is still the same.

In truth, mine was not an unhappy childhood, in fact Mother could be tremendous fun; we used to giggle over things on the radio - I remember that the president of the United Nations was called Oo Noo, or something like that, and my Mother was reduced to tears of laughter every time he was mentioned. Sadly they can never be the kind of people one could confide in, the kind of parents I needed. My problems were to remain what they always had been - my own; to live with and come to terms with in my own way, alone.

I think this is why I became so very introspective. I tended to live in a secret private fantasy world of my own invention. There has always been this un-named faceless woman (she was a girl when I was young) who lived in my mind and would provide a place, a haven for me in times of stress. She had been there as long as I can remember, providing an escape route to a safe world where only I could go. I have always used this female side of me. It has been my way of coping with, as well as the main cause of, the turmoil in my life.

When I was a child I would have fantasies about becoming a girl. The only one I can remember now is where a millionaire (why is it always someone rich one dreams about?) who had lost his daughter saw me and thought I looked just like her. So he took me away and had his doctor change me to be her.

My educational progress through school and university was notable for its mediocrity. I passed all the necessary exams, but probably only just, and I entered my chosen profession in a medically-related field. I am not the least interested in sport; nevertheless both at school and at University I played rugby, which, in retrospect, I hated. But it is what men do. I was good at sailing and captained the University sailing team. I used to weight-train and swim a bit. I went to a gym and built up my physique. All these activities were my way of trying to be manly, to suppress what I felt were unnatural perverted feelings which left me filled with self-loathing.

At University I searched the medical school library trying to find what exactly was the matter with me, but I could find nothing in the literature that explained my symptoms or problems.

It was Spike Milligan who said "I was born at a very early age". My life began when I got married. Now I had a warm loving girl who was real. Someone who could respond to my feelings, my needs and desires. And what is more, she completely drove away the woman in my mind. Until then I had never known such peace and happiness. We had children; two sons. I will never forget the birth of the eldest. I never knew such feelings could exist; pride, gratitude, amazement, and horror - that the whole procedure was so painful. Is this really the best nature can come up with for bringing children into the world?

I was at this stage building up my own practice and I felt totally fulfilled for the first time ever. For the next ten years or so I was free of the woman within me. I had no creeping insidious thoughts invading my resting moments. I had stopped running from myself.

But it did not last. Someone, I cannot remember who, once said "I have always liked dogs better than children. Dogs mostly die before they become teenagers". As teenagers went, both my sons were easy. They were good company, and we used to do a lot together as a family. But it was at this time that with the associated stress of work and parenthood the woman in my mind began to reassert herself. It was nothing to do with my children directly. I was just getting older, there were more cares to contend with, and I was wording very hard. My ability to resist was weakening.

I have never been able to make close male friends. I have nothing in common with the sporty or laddish types, and there are not so many of the more serious or academic ones around who I can relate to. I was very much on my own - a loner, by default. My great solaces were my work and my home and family. To it blot out my feelings I threw myself into my profession both clinically and politically with a dedication I had not realised I was capable of. I was on lots of committees, and even represented my profession in discussions with Government. I have had what most people would call a very high profile and successful professional life. But it did not happen by design, rather because of what I am. I found that I was again running away from my inner self, keeping busy at anything to prevent having time to brood, to stop this woman within me from taking over.

I had on occasions tried cross-dressing. I bought clothes and wore them in secret. But I only ended up filled with disgust and remorse for my weakness, and after a short time I always threw them away.

Something had to give. It was my health. By now, I was in my late forties, I had lost two and a half stones in weight, and people were commenting on how ill I looked. I read in a Sunday Supplement about an organisation called Transformations which specialised in strange people like me, and on a business trip to London I phoned them and went along. There I found an extraordinary twilight world inhabited largely by smart businessmen who dressed up in women's clothes and makeup, living out their fantasies for a couple of hours, and then going about their ordinary lives as if nothing had happened. They dressed me up too. Not as I had done in the past, but doing a totally professional make-over. There was no indication from the girl working on me that what she was doing was unnatural. She was sympathetic, understanding and made me feel almost normal "Everyone has a male and a female side to them', she told me." It is just that you have a more developed female side, that is all".

It was a revelation. I discovered a feeling of completeness and harmony I had never experienced before. The downside however was that the woman in my mind suddenly developed a form, an image, a face and a body. And they were all mine. From this moment she began a takeover bid of my subconscious that eventually became impossible to resist.

Transformations ran a Gender Dysphoria Clinic (the medical term for gender anomalies) and finally, in desperation I booked a consultation. It was an awful interview. I felt that my soul, dripping with shame and embarrassment, was dragged out of me, and all my most secret hidden thoughts were paraded in public. Actually putting these emotions and hardly-admitted feelings into words was the hardest thing I have ever done. Not that the counsellor was unhelpful. She was extremely kind, understanding, apparently unshockable, and utterly non-judgmental. She made it as easy for me as she could. I was diagnosed transsexual and what it involved was explained to me. I was also given a book by Liz Hodgkinson called 'Bodyshock' which was all about the condition of transsexualism.

After this initial visit to the clinic I felt clean for the first time in my life. This strange socially unacceptable condition affecting my every waking moment was not my fault. The knowledge of this alone helped me. I felt that I could finally admit my feelings to myself, and even give in to them.

"What form of treatment, if any, would you like?" the clinic doctor asked me. By now I felt the woman I should have been, this now recognisable female was struggling to get out, to take control. I (or was it she) found myself saying "could I take medication just sufficient to become a bit androgenous, just enough that I could pass as a woman in public?"

All this so far was without the knowledge of my wife and family. I regret this, but I still find those closest to me the hardest to talk to. I took the medication as prescribed, but things rapidly started getting out of hand. My shape began to change, but what was worse was that my breasts began to grow. This was not part of the deal, I thought my life would end. I mentioned it to my wife, without telling her what was happening, but of course at the beginning, there was not much to see, and she just poo-poohed the idea. I will never forget when and how I finally told my wife. My Mother-in-law had been ill for some time. She had just come out of hospital and moved to a nursing home when she became much worse. We were called to the home, but arrived after she had died. The emotional stress was awful. Although we knew she had not long to live, when she did die it was still a terrible shock. In the aftermath of emotion, we were all terribly uptight over almost anything. It was then that my wife upbraided me for looking so thin and ill and doing nothing about it, and I confessed everything to her. Her initial reaction was of relief that I did not have cancer, but gradually as the implications dawned, she went through a panoply of emotions from disgust and horror to trying to understand what drove me to be in this state. By now I was living a double life. In the opposite role I am very feminine, with a good figure and I look very different.

I was going to professional meetings in the female role where I felt more comfortable. My voice was more female than male, and I could meet other women as an equal. I found that I had far more in common with women than I had ever had with men. I could pass in public in either gender without being recognised by people who knew the other version of me. It became very confusing, trying to remember who I knew and who I did not in which ever role I happened to be.

The emotional strain was becoming intolerable. The inevitable result was a complete mental breakdown. A day came when I had to rush home from work in floods of tears. "I can't go on any longer", I sobbed to my wife. "I've had as much as I can bear". She took control. After the inevitable cup of tea (surely the worlds greatest panacea), she dragged me out for a long walk with our dogs. She talked me back to some form of stability, and after a week recovering at home I managed to return to work. But this was the beginning of the end of my working life. Three of my Staff knew of my problem and became a tremendous support to me over the next year. They talked me out of my depressive moods of black despair and pushed me into keeping working. They covered up for me so that the rest of the staff never knew. However my depression was not getting any better, and the strain was telling on staff and patients. It was becoming obvious to everyone but me that I was not really capable of still working. After a particularly bad attack, I went home to recuperate as before, but my partners suggested that in the interests of my own heath and the well-being of my patients, I give up work completely. The woman in my mind had won. I was beaten. I was left with my heath destroyed, unable to work, unable to live without drugs, a mere shell of the person I used to be.

Maybe I should not have resisted. Perhaps I should just have given in to my subconscious and lived as a woman. But really I do not think so. It is just not that easy. I could not bear the thought of being found out. To start again at nearly sixty in a new gender, with no history, no background I could admit to, I would find impossible. My whole life would be a lie: and I am a hopeless liar. To start a new life with a new name alone, as any newly-married woman will already know, involves so many people and organisations. Everything from your bank, your National Insurance, your insurance companies, even Passport Office and the DVLA for your driving licence has to be informed. Then of course there are friends and family. No wonder those people who have gone through sex-changes cannot keep it out of the press!

I need my family, and although they know of my condition and support me, they will only accept me in the male role, and in all honesty, that is the only way I feel comfortable with them.

It has not been all bad. I have lived for nearly fifty of my fifty-six years coping with my problems, and as long as I could work, I was in control of myself. It is only as I got older and I could no longer blot out my feelings that my condition took over.

Woody Allen was once asked why he hated leaving New York. He replied "I can't trust air I can't see". I hate being away from home. I get an almost visible sense of security when I am with my family.

The downside is that my wife suffers dreadfully now; the problem is hers as well as mine. But we have always been best friends, and so far have stayed together, to fight as a combined front.

The medical profession in general seems to have a deep lack of understanding of transsexualism. After I was diagnosed it was assumed that I would just change and live on as a woman. The dogma seemed to be "You axe a transsexual, therefore you have a sex-change and all your problems will go away." Certainly my GP said "Your condition will never get better, you might as well get on with the change".

Even the psychiatrist has wondered why I want to stay male, especially with the body changes I have gone through. "You must allow either the female or the male side of yourself to die", he said to me during one of our sessions. But my subconscious controls my female side, and my conscious mind helps to be male. How can I kill off one without killing the whole? In reality, having a mind and a body in harmony makes everything easier for me to bear. I know that I am heading for dreadful problems in the future. For example, what ward would they put me in should I have to go to hospital? But at this stage, to change permanently I thought was far too late. It would mean denying the whole of my life with my wife and children. I love my home and my family. From a personal point of view I am now not very good in my own company. Just being on my own causes my depression to worsen and I fear this could end in tragedy. The only doubt I still have is the right I had to get married in the first place. In mitigation, little was known of my condition in the sixties, and nothing was written in the medical literature. At that time I thought I was in control and knew of no alternative available to me.

However, I was to discover that the inner feelings that were taking me over would not be denied, and I had no choice but to proceed to SRS and living full-time as a woman, as I will describe in the next stage of my acceptance of life as I now found it.

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