Not trans

Why transitioning is about so much more than genitals

It was my birthday and my then-girlfriend paid for us to go to London as a present.

Things had been tense between us for a while over my ‘issue’, one that impacted on just about every relationship I had.

Near the end of the break, we were in the hotel and getting more than a little friendly. She moved her hands down my body and towards my crotch. Instinctively I recoiled. Like someone who has been abused flinches when someone raises their hand or makes a sudden movement.

I hadn’t been abused but, unless extremely intoxicated, this was always my body’s response with absolutely no input from me.

My girlfriend got angry. She saw it as me, once again, rejecting her. Sensing that this was a tipping point in our relationship I went to the bathroom and came out completely naked. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done because that was just never a state I felt comfortable in, even on my own, although I had no idea why at the time, just as she didn’t understand why I always pulled her hand away.

I lay down beside her on the bed, hoping the gesture would say all the words I couldn’t find. I wanted it to tell her that it wasn’t her, that it really was me and that I didn’t want it to be that way, that I wanted her to touch me so much and I didn’t know why I felt so uncomfortable when she did, why I felt so wrong.

Without saying a word she just turned her back on me.

It was too late.

Being naked, especially in front of someone, is a leap of faith and a massive act of vulnerability. No matter what words they say, how you feel about yourself will trump all. Being naked in front of someone when you are trans and not even aware of it is worse than every ‘naked in school/work/shopping centre’ dream you’ve ever had.

When I was first ‘diagnosed’ as transgender, I didn’t really have much clue about dysphoria – the crippling feeling that everything is wrong with your body. For me, like most people when they think ‘trans’, it all centred around my genitals.

Those were the real problem.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Facial hair, facial shape, bigger muscle mass, wider shoulders, voice. Oh my god, the voice thing.

I always thought it was just because I was ugly that I didn’t want to be in photographs, or because I always, somehow, looked as if I was stoned. Now I don’t care what I look like and have happily been photographed looking completely ridiculous, pulling weird faces, and shared those, willingly, with thousands of people on Twitter. You know, like most people.

It wasn’t that I was ugly, it’s that what I was seeing was wrong.

Just like you don’t notice the air around you that you breathe constantly until it’s not there, it’s only when there is a disconnect between the brain and the body do you realise there’s a problem. Or that there can even be a problem in the first place.

I spent decades trying to deal with this issue without knowing what the issue was. I explored every possible cause, tried therapy and self-help books, drugs and relationships. Lots and lots of drugs and relationships. Nothing helped.

I often hear people describing being transgender as feeling like you are in the wrong body, but it’s not like that for me. I’m not in the wrong body, it’s just that my body was wrong. A subtle difference, but an important one. Therapy can help when you’ve picked up some dysfunctions along the way in life but it won’t ‘fix’ your transness.

Being transgender is not a personality disorder, it is a biological issue, and no amount of thinking will ever physically rewire my brain.

That’s why the only answer was transitioning. For me anyway.

It’s not a case of laying down new habits or unlearning behaviours. That’s like being left-handed but hoping that talking with a therapist will suddenly make your brain realise that you’re right handed after all.

It’s just not going to happen.