Cold sweat

When I asked Jeff for a prompt, he asked me to write about the exact moment I decided to go back – and what that decision felt like. There was no one moment, and I’m not sure I can identify a decision.

Transition in clinical process and popular imagination is about the proving of determination. Even the cliché, “I always knew, ever since I was a child, I always wanted to be a girl, I never felt like a boy,” is not an affirmative identification but an argument from evidence. Our early – earliest – memories allow our certainty – they prove that our condition is chronic, that we will never change, and so we have to live as ourselves. And under the demand I know and the declaration I knew is the appeal I tried, I did try.

In making this claim, we reject the dignity of medicine and law; we dispute the common sense of our audience and argue against every premise they have. By insisting that we are transsexual, we define ourselves as unreliable: biased for our wants, unbalanced by our needs, loony in our painted faces, histrionic in our repellent flesh.

So much of that testimony depends on an internal sense of self – and its subjective nature makes the demand for uncompromising assurance that much stronger. We cannot waver or we lose all credibility. Our desire must be pure.

I was confessing that I had become uncertain.

And as I stopped and began to change back, what I remember is not any decision. I remember going to these authorities in turn – my physician, my psychiatrist, my family, my friends – and asking them what I should do – what they thought I could be. I was not looking for advice so much as reaction.

When I understood that I could not go on, I believed that I could not go back. I believed that I was ruined – I wouldn’t exorcise this basic sense of calamity for years. I thought that I would never look normal – conventionally, unambiguously female, never visibly transsexual – again. I thought that I would always be marred by the changes my body had undergone in transition. I also believed, although I never articulated this idea, that my sanity had been irreparably disfigured. I hadn’t just made myself ugly. I had rendered myself unsound.

In retrospect, none of this was realistic – nor responsive to the explicit rationale of transition, nor related to the shape of my face or body or my physical response to hormones. If transition is reasonable, then retransition must be even more feasible. If I had been a normal woman, I could be one again. But I wasn’t thinking about transition in logistical terms – my feelings about this departure and return were almost spiritual. On a soul level, I felt compromised.  No, contaminated.  

So I reached out to everyone around me.  I may have been seeking reassurance, but I think I was also alerted to unease.  If they were as despairing as I was, then my prospects were low.


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