It’s a long time ago now, but I still remember the trips to London to see that one very special doctor like they were yesterday. I remember learning how lentils in tights could make realistic looking breast forms and how much makeup was required to hide a 5 o’clock shadow. There were shops — a bit seedy, maybe — near Euston Station where you could buy special make up and clothing. I remember walking around our neighbourhood with the bravest woman in the world, while people looked at us and reacted — quietly pointing, laughing, looking away.
But then safely at home, I remember the two of us trawling the internet for information and community. We found it. We read books, watched movies and soaked up every bit of information we would find. It was a very different situation for the two of us. She had this need, this drive inside her that motivated her to finish this journey. I had nothing like that. I had a best friend going through something I could never fully understand. I did try. Along the way, I learned a lot.
So when I see comments like this, I die a bit inside.
I went online and saw words such as “transgender” and “transsexual”. It wasn’t long before I was going into seedy places on the internet. But I knew that what I read wasn’t representative of me or of most of the people I know with the condition.
from The Irish Times
Sarah-Jane Cromwell’s (above right) interview with the Irish Times was published Tuesday. In it, she plugs her book, congratulates herself for having gone about her transition the right way, and shares how awful it is to be thought to be gay.
I started hormone treatment in 2004 through Loughlinstown Hospital. It wasn’t a big decision for me, but I had to go through a whole range of tests because there can be very serious medical complications. That’s one of the reasons I wrote my book, Wrong Body, Wrong Life. There’s a lot of people out there self-medicating with hormone tablets.
Yes, there are a lot of people self-medicating. From the way she makes it sound, you’d think it was because they couldn’t be bothered walking into the hospital and asking for a proper prescription and assessment. The barriers that exist to people who are looking to transition through recommended channels are formidable. While Ms Cromwell may have managed to overcome these, not everyone is quite so fortunate. Preventing self-medication is only partly about educating trans people, and mostly about changing the process of diagnosis and treatment.
When my friend was transitioning, the first thing she was told was that she had to live for a month as a woman before she would even be prescribed hormone therapy. And while some people can do this — those who may not have much facial hair, or obvious Adam’s apples — it often boils down to medical and mental health professionals advising people to put themselves in harm’s way.
As Ms Cromwell herself admits, she was relatively fortunate:
I’ve had physical changes. I have breasts and soft skin and my voice has always been soft. I have no Adam’s apple. In fact, I never had one.
That’s handy then, but not the case for everyone. Certainly for anyone tall, or with large feet, prominent Adam’s apple or with significant facial/arm/chest hair, passing is a huge challenge that is made all the more difficult without a head start of hormones to soften the skin, slow hair growth and start breast development.
So, not only are the majority of trans sites on the internet seedy, but there’s these other crazy transpeople out there self-medicating for no good reason. Right? And who else can we nail in this interview? Oh, right: the gays.
Despite my best efforts to hide my feminine traits, people noticed more and more that something wasn’t right. A lot of people assumed I was gay which I found horrendous.
The only other time she uses the word horrendous is to describe the process of getting a diagnosis, and that — indeed — is horrendous. Having “being thought of as gay” paraded alongside the kind of institutionalised abuse of trans people we call “getting a diagnosis” is more offensive every time I think about it.
In the end, I can’t comment on her interview as another trans person could. I’ve hesitated several times in making comments on it because — as I have said already — transition is something that I cannot begin to properly understand. In no way do I want to insinuate that her path has been easy — transition only comes in different shades of hard.
But trampling the communities around you –whether you identify as a member of those communities or not — isn’t going to make your particular life any easier. It may make someone else’s harder. Why bother?
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