This is a piece I wrote in response to a one word prompt over a year ago. I'm not sure if it fits with your prompt, or if I've published it before on Prose, but it was inspired by a woman who used to ride my bus when I was working. She told me a lot about herself and this is what I wrote in her honor.
I know this is a classic story, but I can’t help but tell it again. Because from my point of view, it wasn’t a story, or something to gawk at when a reporter decided it was newsworthy. I worked so hard for this, and the sacrifices were gargantuan. Good God that sounds so trite, over dramatized, and otherwise like I’m trying to make more of it than it was.
So, let me put you in my shoes. I always liked the girly things. Fashion dolls, oh boy, I loved my sister’s Barbie. Mom’s collection of eighteen inch fashion dolls, you know the ones, with their intricate clothes demonstrating what was popular from centuries past. Their gorgeous hats, and the gloves they wore. Undressing them all one afternoon, had me quietly fascinated for over three hours. But it wasn’t such fun when Mom came into the room where she displayed them and found I’d recombined their clothes to accent a 1920’s flapper with an overly flouncy hat from Victorian London.
I thought they were far more interesting the way I had them dressed. But mom, well that’s a whole other story. I couldn’t sit for a week.
“Why can’t you be a normal boy and play with your cars, and build things with the Lego blocks? Annie is pissed with you. Where are all the shoes for her Barbie? Leave her stuff alone!” Every word was punctuated with another smack of the wooden spoon she used equally on each of us. I can’t complain that I didn’t deserve it. Not because I was a boy playing with girl’s things, but because I didn’t respect their things. It took me a while to learn I couldn’t play with whatever I saw. Don’t touch, was my cue to find a way.
Never mind that though. The point was, when Annie started playing with makeup, I was more than happy to be the one she experimented on. I stole her training bra, stuffing it with face cloths, admiring myself in the three way mirror mom used for her clients. She did custom alterations and sewing for ladies all over the neighborhood.
And I salivated over the cute guy on the cover of mom’s romance novels. I dreamed of being the girl he was holding. I couldn’t understand why I was supposed to be interested in cars, rifles, playing cops and robbers with the other boys. Can you tell I grew up in a very traditional place? Of course, you need to understand I’m almost 60 now, and things are so much better for us confused types.
It took me years to understand I wasn’t gay. No, it was in the third round of therapy, when the doc I was seeing asked me, “When you think of sex, and fantasize are you male or female?” that someone finally clued into what was wrong.
“I’m always a girl. I’ve never had sex. It always felt wrong. I’ve tried to kiss a girl, and it turned me off so bad, I had to beg off as if feeling sick from something I ate,” I told him.
“Let’s explore this a little more,” his voice was completely neutral, there was no judgement there. He was a treasure, and when he passed away, I was so proud to stand in my black dress and high heels at the edge of his grave. To throw my rose on his coffin when his family buried him, and say a prayer, thanking God for this enlightened man, who was a triumph of all the compassion he’d shown me during our long association.
I ended up telling him about cross dressing as a teen. Halloween was my favorite day of the year. I had pictures from the time I was eight. Mom had them in my album. I was the best looking girl. I was the princess, the white witch, fairy queen, and in high school, the guys at the dance, didn’t figure out who I was until one of them tried to get too cozy, and found out the hooker wasn’t a girl.
The disturbing notion that I wasn’t in the right body, didn’t surface until head shrinker number three, started digging into my feelings and confusion in an in depth session of visits when I was in my thirties. That first question, about my fantasy life opened a torrent of misery.
Sex changes were in the very early stages of development. Did I want to try it, and did I want to go through hormone therapy to grow my own boobs, or get implants? Since I hated my gross beard, which I had to shave three times a day to keep the five o’clock shadow away, and I was hirsute enough to be very obviously male. Hormones were the right choice. I loved the changes.
I grew breasts and lost the beard. I like to imagine what I went through was somewhat like puberty for a girl. Which looking back, I envied Annie to death for having the body I should have had. I love her to death, she never ever thought of me as weird even when she helped me with my makeup. She was the one who found size 13 high heels for me.
Don’t ask me what I went through trying to explain it to dad. “You have a cock and balls, get used to it, boy.” I can still hear the disgust. He never hugged me again, he wouldn’t even let me hold his hand when he was dying.
I moved to Europe. My psychiatrist put me in contact with a clinic that was working on developing a surgical procedure for transforming sexually misplaced psyches into the correct body. To put it bluntly, changing males to females on the exterior, to match what their brains have always known. It wasn’t smart to make it that obvious way back then.
I was part of so many firsts. I warn anyone one who is in the same boat as I was, make sure you have a true expert in the field if you want to go down this road. I swear some of the clinics out there are merely trying to mutilate us and say you got what you deserve. I’m sorry, what kind of attitude is that? I’m no less human than you are.
Why this confession? I’m going to my high school reunion. I wonder if anyone will recognize good old goof off, Graham Oakley as Gail Aniston? I always loved Jennifer Aniston’s looks, and believe it or not, I wrote to her, asking if she would be offended if I used her last name for my new one. I was curious about what she might think. That as I’ve said before, is a whole other story.
I’m a comfortably curvaceous woman now. You’d never tell me from dozens of other grandmothers. Forty pounds or so overweight, enough muffin top, that tight jeans are not a good idea, I’ll put on a loose fitting silk gown. I’ll wear the heels, and bring the perfectly accessorized costume jewelry, purse and yes, hat. I’ve always had a thing for the outlandish hat.
The color will match my eyes, my hair, now a thick fall of black with startling silver streaks, will be loose over my shoulders. It’s my best feature. Exactly curly enough to lay in waves and show off deep blue highlights from the reflections of the inevitable Disco Ball which would be in the center of the dance floor. Disco was all the rage when we were in school.
I am me now. A woman. I don’t care if I ever have a lover or get married. I could remain single now that I’m true to what I know. Thank you to all those who believe God doesn’t always get it right. Thank God is all I can say. Thank God I can say no to searching for ways to fit into the normal cage my father constructed for me.
You ask about mom? She admitted to me, the other day, she knew there was something wrong. But she never put a finger on it, and truly accepted it, until she saw me at my sister’s second wedding as her matron of honor. She said there was a rightness about it, she should have seen in all those pictures from Halloween’s past. She hugged me, and said, “Please change your middle name to my maiden name. I’d like to have some piece of me, in your new life.”
I am Gail Anne Smith Aniston. And if you have questions about my transformation, I’ll answer them. Blogging is part of my new way of life. Helping others who have been trying to find their way through the land mines of sex change is my mission.
Love you all.
Difficult To Get A Straight Answer, Isn’t It?
“And now I am eking out my days in my corner, taunting myself with the bitter and entirely useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot seriously become anything, that only a fool can become something.”
~Fyodor Dostoevsky - Notes From Underground
First allow me to impart my belief that no human can fully understand another, so the preliminary answer to your question is that being trans is probably an experience unique to each person.
It is widely accepted that gender-dysphoria exists. I consider it to be a human condition with many different manifestations, resulting in a range of unpleasant emotions, from mildly uncomfortable to intolerably distressing. I call it a human condition because I have not percieved it to any severe levels in other animals, and because it plagues a great number of people who have suffered by it to various extents at some time or another in our lives.
But, to be as coldly and condemningly rational as I am capable of; Dysphoria of any kind appears to have certain preconditions, one of which is relative safety and security within an over-prosperous society. It is akin to that streak of utopia-rebellion in humanity which causes us to be upset by nothing terrible occuring; the subconscious conviction that in the absence of suffering we must make ourselves suffer.
In a survival scenario for example, where every bead of sweat must be utilized toward the aim of preserving what small freedoms are afforded one by the merciless recriminations of the natural world, I think it likely that only the most extreme cases would endure, as there wouldn’t be enough downtime to indulge all the masochistic tortures with which the human brain so often occupies itself when idle.
That aside, seeing as we are idle, and various dysphorias do torment us, it is a passably reasonable opinion that we might attempt to formulate some kind of remedy to one of them which seems to have an obvious solution.
However (while I have no qualms whatsoever with crossdressing) being of an impractically old-fashioned disposition myself, I regard the surgical mutilation of genitalia with abject horror. More particularly knowing that even with a skilled surgeon it could all go very wrong, that most require further surgeries to correct abnormalities, and that infertility is usually part and parcel, even if it all goes smoothly. I know not how much my terror of body-mutilation and my joy in parenthood have combined to cloud the openness of my mind on the topic, for perhaps there is no way to scientifically measure the extent of human bias. Nevertheless I for one definitely find it worth the attempt to encourage all other avenues of comfort within oneself before resorting to surgical alteration.
I can anecdotally disclose that I was highly displeased with being female in my youth, wallowing in visceral despair and self-disgust at my appearance (which is a vanity I still partake in from time to time.) And, as I was (and still am, to be honest) possessed with an intense admiration for all things masculine, I might have easily gotten seriously obsessed with the idea of being male had I not then found and fallen in love with a male of comparible age and interest, thus rendering any inclination for being something other than a female obsolete.
This is not to say that I consider myself as having escaped some horrible fate; I cannot know what my life would or would not have been like in alternate dimensions. I know only that it was possible in my case for my opinion of myself to change drastically in a short period of time, and that I do not regret the direction my life has taken. I might go so far as to call the want of transformation ‘childish’ within myself, though I know that to others it is a far more overwhelming desire which endures long beyond the inelegant disturbances which plague every adolescence.
Yet there are those who succumb to the unavoidable throes of puberty with irreversible effects, and come later to regret that no one cared enough to discouraged them in their teenaged flights of fancy.
It is this which leads me to think, perhaps naively, that many cases of dysphoric transgenderism (especially in young people) will cease to take over the life of the avid self-questioner, given enough time and empathy of surroundings, without resorting to surgical interference or rampent enabling, which in itself is a cruelty none should be put to bear. To place a person’s whims above their well-being is a degradation which no soul professed of compassion should be able to inflict upon a loved one.
This should not be taken as any particular insult to the persons afflicted with wanting a different body. It is a universal, not particular, folly; to be confused, or to be sure of oneself for that matter. Both are detestable qualities in some respects. After all, no sane person should be expected to know without a shred of decent doubt what exactly one’s own mind thinks about the fact of it’s querulous existence, less still to make imperiously sensible decisions as to it's bodily condition.
But of course the audacious pomposity of that last statement is at once apparent to all who place any sort of passing importance on the notion of free will; for we must choose our own way, regardless.