As part of my overall plan that I have gradually honed in on during sessions with my counsellor, I intend in the coming months to come out as transgender to a few more people. I believe I have said as much in a previous post. One of the people I plan on coming out to is probably my oldest friend Pete. Pete and I went to school together, were best man at each other’s weddings and generally in our teens and twenties were best buds. However he hasn’t lived in Northern Ireland for about 15 years, so I only see him infrequently now, although we keep in touch via email and Facebook.
A few weeks ago his younger sister was getting married and he had advised me well in advance of this to keep that weekend free so we could go out for a drink and a catch-up while he was back home. Well, I thought, what a perfect opportunity to have “that” conversation. So a couple of weeks in advance of the date I dropped him an email to enquire if it was all still happening, only to discover that he wasn’t going to have a free night due to family commitments, and also he would have his wife and three kids with him the whole time. So instead, we agreed that our full families would go out for Sunday lunch together instead. It was a lot of fun, but obviously not an appropriate location to drop the bombshell on him that the guy he has known for 30 years isn’t actually a guy at all. I did manage to drop a hint and pre-position a future confession…
We had all been having a discussion about the eating habits of our children, and my wife was telling what an appallingly bad eater she had been as a child. She ended this reminiscence by adding “but I was just weird”. The conversation then proceeded like this:
Me: Well we’re all weird in our own way aren’t we?
Pete: Well you certainly are
Me: Honestly Pete you don’t know the half of it
At this point Mrs Kirsty looked across at me, imploringly shaking her head to say “no”
Me: It’s really not the place to talk about this, but if it was just the two of us out for a pint, I’d have something to tell you that would really shock you
Pete: Well now I’m intrigued…
And that was pretty much that. I haven’t exactly outed myself, but he certainly knows that there’s something I need to get off my chest.
I mention all this because it came up during my counselling session yesterday. My counsellor asked me if I thought he had any suspicion that I might be TS, or anywhere on the transgender spectrum, and in all honesty I don’t think so. In fact, if anything I think that after my hints during that Sunday lunch that he suspects I’m going to tell him that I’m gay or bi. I think that is just so much more of a normal logical leap to make. Thing is, I don’t even think he’d be that surprised if I did tell him I was gay. As a teenager I was never one to chase girls, while by contrast and despite not exactly being Belfast’s answer to Brad Pitt in the looks department, Pete was something of a ladies man. In fact he and others from time to time did question my sexuality because I have never been comfortable taking part in the type of formation lechery that teenage boys and young men are prone to do. Not only that, I genuinely don’t think I have ever “chatted up” a woman in my life. I wouldn’t know how to or what to say. Which on the surface appears strange, because I find women much easier to talk to than men.
Anyway, to get back the counselling session, I told my counsellor that I thought Pete might suspect I am gay or bi, even though I’m not. But that then lead on to more of a discussion about sexuality and gender and how they relate. Back when I came out to my friend Lauren in work, after telling her I was transgender one of the first things she asked me was if I was gay, and I answered that I was not. This is an unsatisfactory answer. I think the terms “gay” and “straight” assume that gender is not an issue, which is obviously not the case for me – I’m not a straight man because I don’t really think of myself as a man, but something just doesn’t sit right with thinking of myself as a lesbian. So these days I prefer to just say that I don’t find men attractive. Which remains the case.
That would be all well and good but following on from that, I had another realisation about myself. I may not find men attractive, but I would love for men to find me attractive. Not that I would dream of reciprocating and getting involved with a man, but I think that I am seeking the affirmation of me as a woman that would be brought by being the object of a man’s attraction. I am married to my wife, a woman, and intend to stay that way. I am not about to embark on what she would see as a gay affair, or any other sort of affair for that matter. But even if I were single, I can’t imagine that I would want to be in a relationship with a man. But this is still a new feeling, wanting men to find me attractive. Before my TS feelings blossomed in the last 6 months, I wasn’t walking round hoping that gay men fancied me, so why would I now want straight men to fancy me? Maybe it just means that I’m not much of a strong independent woman. But hey, who doesn’t want to be told they’re gorgeous?
I have read in a few places how transitioned women have experienced a “flip” in sexuality to go along with the change in outward gender and presentation, but for some reason I had always thought this was to do with HRT. Blocking or removing testosterone and replacing it with oestrogen can have massive effects both psychological as well as physical, and I had believed a change in sexuality to be an occasional part of that. Now however, I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s part of the package, once your mind has become completely female and you have accepted yourself as a woman, possibly part of being a woman is seeking out a male companion. I’m no psychologist (goes without saying if you’ve read this far!) but it doesn’t seem unreasonable. Anyway, it still hasn’t happened to me and may never happen to me, I’m at step 1 and I’m jumping ahead to about step 40.
After this particular revelation my counsellor backtracked a bit to an earlier discussion a few weeks ago. We had been speaking about my first experiences going out in public as a woman, and how I felt about it compared to more recently. I was specifically speaking about probably the worst experience I have had, at least bad in terms of confidence, which was the first time I went out in public wearing heels, which I won’t go into in detail now but I wrote about it at the time.
The thing is, I was convinced I was getting a lot of stares, probably all in my own head. I had mentioned this in counselling a few weeks ago and I said it was probably self-consciousness and nothing more, and we kind of left it at that. I certainly have no qualms about going out in heels or wedges now, heck I’m 6’2″ already, what’s another couple of inches? But my counsellor revisited it after we had the discussion about how I wanted men to find me attractive.
I know I do sometimes say in passing that if a man looked at me, he probably fancied me, as a bit of a joke. But my counsellor was putting that forward as a serious proposal. Sort of. Basically she said that a lot of the times that I think I’m getting looks, if they are looks at all, that they could well be admiring looks or as she put it, I could be getting “checked out” by men. The theory is this; men don’t look at other men. It can come across as aggressive or attempting to intimidate. But men do look at women. All the time. All women. They look to ascertain the level of attractiveness, and if the level is appropriately high, they will continue to look. And unlike men with other men, women do look at other women, perhaps admiring their clothing or hair, or even thinking bitchily “what are you wearing?” For someone who has spent all their life presenting as male in public, suddenly being on the receiving end of these looks can be quite jarring and can cause me to think that I’m being read, when in fact something altogether different is going on. So the long and the short of it is, some men may already have found me attractive. Isn’t that a nice thought? As my counsellor said to me, a man sees a tall girl, slim, long legs, heels – why wouldn’t he look? Cue my confidence up another notch.
So after all that what is my point? No idea. Just a few random thoughts. But thoughts which occupied my mind for quite a while yesterday, and I thought they were worth sharing.
Less theory, more practical next time.