One glassy-eyed celebrity after another

A rather sad account of transgender life:

Am I a woman? I used to believe I was. I used to have stars in my eyes. My role model was the Bond girl (and self-described “Transsexual Supermodel”) Caroline Cossey. She was gorgeous and glamorous. If she could do it, couldn’t I? Me, a socially awkward boy who struggled to find brotherhood in the company of boys, who more easily made friends with girls. Why not?

I have a lot of sympathy for that struggling to find brotherhood in the company of boys. I had friends who were boys who struggled that way. It wasn’t that they “felt like girls,” as far as I remember, so much as it was that they were nerdy aka bookish aka intellectually inclined aka not particularly keen on sports. The company of boys can be tiring.

In the very early days of the modern Internet, there was a non-commercial predecessor to Facebook and Twitter called IRC, or Internet Relay Channel [Chat]. Using login credentials borrowed from a teacher, I used this chat network to seek out help. And I found it. For a misfit like me, finding a group of people who were accepting and validating was amazing. Maybe even intoxicating. These people understood me—or, even if they didn’t quite understand me, they would at least listen to me. Crossdressers, transvestites, and transsexuals—people who were gender non-conforming—a community where I belonged. Finally.

A community with a belief system.

“Born in a man’s body” became the accepted device for explaining our existence as transsexuals. To “cure” this condition, we were expected to take feminizing hormones and whatever other treatments were necessary to achieve femininity, commonly including hair removal (through the process of electrolysis, predating laser depilation), facial feminizing surgery, tracheal shaving to reduce the prominence of the Adam’s apple, surgery to change vocal pitch, rib reduction surgery, a list of implants including breast, hip, buttock, and cheek, and then finally sex-reassignment surgery.

You might be wondering about the women who wanted to transition to become men. They were hardly around. And truth be told, they weren’t particularly welcome in a space populated by gender-bending men. Antipathy toward the female sex is the norm in these trans spaces. It’s hard to make believe in the presence of the real deal.

I’ve noticed that. Boy howdy have I noticed that. I wish more people would.

While I wasn’t paying attention, a new thing called the “Transgender Community” arose to take the place of the thing I’d previously known as simply community. Whereas the community I’d transitioned with was mostly middle-aged white men of all different political views, this new community was mostly middle-aged white men of radically leftist ideology. Before, we had been a group of individuals brought together by an unusual commonality. Now, it’s a whole identity movement. What’s more, the previous antipathy toward women has become more intense. 

So very intense.

My ignorance of the transgender cuckoo’s egg was corrected when I started that blog, which I used to explore the intersection of transgenderism and feminism. While there was heat on both sides of the divide, it was immediately obvious that only one side used threats of violence, violent (often sexual) imagery, and harassment as part of its strategy to confront its counterpart. I was shocked by the misogyny coming from “my side,” and spoke out against it.

If only more people would.

As I came to accept myself, and accept my choices, the depression lifted. I wrote more, trying to work out and understand my life through a different lens. Events and encounters that had previously left me confused and anxious started to make more sense when I realized I’d experienced them as a transsexual and not as a woman. In fact, my spiral of misery was practically an assured outcome given my effort to assert a womanhood that never existed and never can or will.

Since then, I’ve learned I’m not the only transsexual to have this revelation. The transgender community (such as it is) talks about authenticity, about true selves, about becoming ourselves. Why did I need to become a lifelong medical patient and have a dangerous surgery to reveal my “authentic” self?

Is there even any such thing as an “authentic self”? Hume said the self is “nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.”

Now I’m 45. Almost certainly more than half-way to wherever I stop. If I keep taking estrogen, I risk a stroke and deep vein blood clots. If I stop, I risk skeletal deterioration. Teenage me had no way of appreciating the choices middle-age me would have to make. Do I regret my choices? As a child growing up during the AIDS crisis, and watching some of my friends damaged by drug addiction, there’s a chance that my choices left me better off than I might otherwise have been. If I regret anything, it’s that so few people helped me to understand the weight of my decisions, and that I was discouraged from believing in my own agency.

Of course there’s also a chance that those choices didn’t leave Corinna Cohn better off.

15 Responses to “One glassy-eyed celebrity after another”

Leave a Comment

Subscribe without commenting