Noticeably dainty and high-pitched

James Gheerbrant wrote a profile of a trans woman, Sandra Forgues, which is getting some attention on Twitter, not all of it warmly complimentary.

Beneath the surface, she was fighting currents unseen. The face that periodically appeared in local newspaper articles, the name proudly emblazoned on lacquered clubhouse boards, were pieces of an identity that did not match the self she felt deep in her soul.

“At the core of my being, I have always felt like a woman,” she says. “I have a woman’s mind, but I did not have the body of a woman.”

I have to wonder if anyone would feel like that in a world where sex differences were not so exaggerated and value-laden and enforced. I have to wonder what the point would be. I have to wonder what anyone would think “I have a woman’s mind” could possibly mean.

More basically, I don’t believe there is any such thing as a self one feels deep in one’s soul. The self is almost as mystical a concept as the soul, and both are illusory.

Her voice, even by the standards of the female sex, is noticeably dainty and high-pitched. Later she explains that during male-to-female transition, the pitch of the voice is unaffected by hormone therapy — a woman’s voice has to be learnt and polished through hours of painstaking work with a speech therapist. Before, whenever she opened her mouth, the deep pitch of her speech did not match the feminine tenor of her thoughts and feelings. Now, a day of ordinary conversation consists of a thousand semi-conscious efforts to ensure that her innermost and outer selves are on the same wavelength.

So…in order to be the self she feels deep in her soul, she has to make the effort to talk in an artificial mannered way in any ordinary conversation. Is there perhaps a contradiction there?

Also…”dainty and high-pitched”? So, like, affected? That’s what women are? Thanks, guys.

“I could slip back into my old voice and you’d fall out of your chair!” She says with a high, trilling laugh.

As we gurlz do.

“To feel female deep inside, in all my characteristics, brings me peace,” Sandra says. “Often when we talk about transition, we talk about the look, but in hormone therapy what changes very quickly and very starkly are all the smells, the pheromones, the senses, the entire functioning of the brain: emotions, perceptions, fears.

“I now have fears that I never had before.”

Yes, that’s definitely one of the great joys of being a woman: the fears.

Sandra Forgues is the same person as Wilfrid Forgues: they share one Wikipedia page, one passport number, one consciousness. And yet she is also fundamentally, neurologically different. She is not simply a repackaged female version of her former self. Her character is altered, her reaction to things around her changed. In order to set up the interview, two armchairs need to be moved from the ground floor to an upstairs conference room. Before she would automatically have lent a hand; now she demurs bashfully as the photographer and I haul them up the staircase.

That’s the one that really got the Twitter attention.

If she could have another life, would she transition early? Would she trade a life of glory and anguish for a life of happy anonymity? Would she give away the years when she was somebody, to have more years as herself?

“The woman that I am today is much more accomplished than the woman that I would have been if I’d transitioned very early,” she says. “I would never have been Olympic champion, I would never have had that social status. Being Olympic champion brought me many other things. You learn about yourself. And that self-learning has made me the woman I always dreamt of.”

Well quite. Gather the rewards of being male for the first few decades and then “become” a woman.

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