THE REALITIES OF GENDER REASSIGNMENT
For the transexual, the challenges that have to be faced in making the great changes involved in gender-reassignment can be so enormous as to shake one’s resolve at every step of the way. But, with careful consideration and adequate forethought, they need not be overwhelming.
However, anyone who assumes that the challenge lies in learning to dress properly, wear nice clothes, maintain an attractive hairstyle and to use make-up to good effect is really only scratching the surface. True, these aspects are important and cannot be overlooked if one is to fit into the new role, but they do not transcend all and if pursued without consideration of the vaster and more critical realities of becoming a woman, they may become rather superficial.
After all, clothes, make-up and appearance are the prime considerations of the transvestite, but for the transexual the entire issue goes to the very core of ones being.
Both the cause and effect are so all-embracing that a very realistic attitude to the deeper issues affecting women needs to be developed by the transexual.
Biological women are many things in the eyes of men. They are the giving, yielding sex, traditinally bending and surrendering to the more agressive and powerful male. The very sexual act itself puts them (traditonally) into the underlying and characteristically subservient position. They are the nuturing sex, capable of imparting unique shelter, security and love to their children.
The bonding between a mother and her child starts at the very first moment of holding and suckling, and from that time on, the relationship has a special quality that cannot quite be equalled by the father. Despite the unique role of women in the continuance of mankind, they are often cruelly reviled and denigrated.
Motherhood is supposedly honured and even deified in all societies, yet women are often treated abominably, are objects of lewd humour and are used as chatels and servants by their lords and masters.
Women have had to fight through history for their rights in a male-dominated world. Consider some historical facts:
All the great religous leaders have been men – Jesus, Mohammed, Confucious and Buddha for example – as have been every pope, archbishop and, until recently, ordinary clergy in most churches. In politics women leaders have almost exclusively been during the post-war years. The UK, India, Pakistan, Norway, Israel and others have all had female leaders in recent years, but look at what women have had to endure to reach those positions of eminence.
The first milestone of modern democracy was probably the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, but it took another 700 years before women began to be granted the vote in most countries.
The emancipation of women has opened up opportunities in many professions and businesses. Women lawyers, doctors, accountants and company directors are today an integral part of the community and not objects of curiosity.
However, there is a downside and it is far from pleasant. Pornography, frequently featuring women in all sorts of highly exaggerated, distasteful and downright lewd situations is churned out by a multi-million dollar sector of the publishing and film industries, supported by an army of writers, webmasters, photographers and artists. This industry is forever testing the limits of public tolerance, including child pornography and satanism.
Hostility to women also seems to have taken on a new destructive face in our society and is a matter of concern to sociologists, theologians, the law and the medical profession. Prejudice, supression and even violence are never far away.
The same sort of prejudice and ignorance affects the transsexual in many other areas of our society. We know that if we are to enjoy peace of mind we must shake off the disturbing ambivalence which can make a misery of our lives. But equally we have to recognise that there are limits which preclude us from moving into a cosseted and beautiful world of sheltered femininity.
None of us has gone through the process of growing up and developing as females from the day of our birth, even though our instincts tell us that that is what should have happened.
Transsexuals go through emotional turmoil, enormous pain, inconvenience and expense because they know that they really are women trapped in a mans body, and this is the price of escape and fulfilment.
However, I have not met one who has said that she would not go through it all again if necessary.
I have not met one who has not felt profound relief in getting rid of the penis and testicles which have been the hallmark of male superiority since the beginning of time. Equally though, I have not met one who has not had to confront society’s ignorance and prejudice.
These problems should be faced with as much honesty and courage as one can muster. A transsexual must recognise that in addition to the stigma conferred on him by his or her condition, there are other hardship is involved in simply living life as a woman. Some may try to take refuge in self-imposed isolation, thus creating a sort of ghetto for themsleves and associates. This is a state to be avoided if humanly possible.
As I see it, these are the fundamental considerations that must be confronted:
Am I happy and proud to be a woman? Am I happy to accept the known and established limitations which are inevitable in living as a woman, keeping in mind that living as a woman and womanhood itself are not quite the same thing? As I am now a woman or in the process of becoming one, can I honestly accept the tolerable limitations of womanhood? In accepting these limitations can I also recognise it as my duty to my sisters to fight for and uphold the rights of women in terms of equal compensations for equal work, the same levels of security that men expect and the same freedom from oppression? Am I prepared to accept that role-reversal is not my aim? Am I prepared to accept that there is a poor future for a world in which there is a dominant and an inferior sex?
Not everyone will be able to answer these questions affirmatively, but we all owe it to ourselves to confront the realities of becoming a woman with the knowledge that it is loaded with obstacles. But if these questions can be answered objectively and with honesty, the chances of succeeding as a real creative woman, making a distinct and valuable contribution to society, will be much enhanced.