The wrong trousers
David Thomas’s transgender diary
In my unofficial role as a selfappointed Emeritus Professor of Transology, I came up with a concept a few years ago that I called The O’brien Point. The OBP describes the point in a person’s transition at which they say, ‘Enough.’
This may come at the very end of the entire process, after every conceivable operation has been undertaken. Or it may come much earlier, when a person stops and says, ‘That’ll do me.’
Perhaps they are content where they are and don’t need to go any further. Or they may have intended to go further, but suddenly recoil, as if walking into an electrified fence, thinking, ‘Ouch! That’s a step too far.’
The point takes its name from Richard O’brien, the creator of The Rocky Horror Show, who defines himself as transgender. In 2015, O’brien told this newspaper that although he would rather have been born female, he had never wanted surgery because, ‘I would never be a woman, I could only be an idea of a woman.’ It was enough just to tell himself that, ‘I’m transgender. OK. Accept it for yourself and the rest of you accept it too. Get on with it.’
When I was taken to see The Rocky Horror
Show, as a 15th birthday treat, I encountered the word ‘transsexual’ for the very first time and thought, ‘Maybe that’s what I am.’ Now here I am, 45 years later, wondering, ‘Have I reached my own O’brien Point?’
I do feel I’m about to arrive at my electric-fence moment. It’s not just that I am exhausted and impoverished by the endless intrusive, painful procedures that transition entails. It’s not even that the finishing line seems as endlessly unreachable as the moment when we all finally say, ‘Phew! That’s Brexit done and dusted.’
As today’s new photo of me – and others to follow – demonstrate, there have been big changes. Trouble is, I still have a long way to go. My face needs work: jawline, browline, nose and lips to be precise. And I am scared by the prospect of a six-hour operation on my face and the discomfort that is bound to follow it. Ditto, the operation after that… you know, that one.
The biggest issue of all for me is anaesthesia. General anaesthetics for patients over 60 can cause postoperative delirium and post-operative cognitive dysfunction. These selfexplanatory conditions not only have serious shortterm effects on patients but may increase the risk of dementia. And dementia terrifies me.
My mother is an academically brilliant woman who by sheer talent and hard work transformed herself from a suburban housewife to the deputy speaker of the House of Lords. Today, she has Alzheimer’s and lives in a care home, unable to form a coherent sentence, or care for herself in any way.
Mum is kept permanently semicomatose. One realises why when the drugs wear off and the full horror of her existential torment – trapped in a nightmare from which there is no escape – becomes apparent.
I dread that fate even more than death itself. So is anything worth the risk, however minimal, of accelerating, or even provoking my slide into the seventh circle of a living hell?
Then again, what is the alternative? Well, I guess it has to do with the kind of self-acceptance that O’brien seems to have achieved. I’ve been working on that and I think I’m getting better at it, although I don’t know if I could accept the failure (as I would surely see it) of not seeing transition through to the bitter end.
But also, it’s a matter of love. Yes, that old chestnut again. At the time of his interview, and to this day (for all I know), Richard O’brien was in a fulfilling relationship with someone who both knew and accepted that he was transgender. That in itself justified his decision not to transition. But could I ever be so lucky?
My experience has been that whether I hide my true nature, or am absolutely out, it’s impossible for me to be known, accepted and loved. I get fleeting glimpses: giddy, delirious joyful snatches of romantic bliss. But the hope of any permanence has always been dashed.
The purpose of transition has therefore been to recreate myself in a more lovable form. But maybe I should accept myself as I am, and have faith that there might yet be a right woman for me. So here’s my personal ad…
Tall, dark, slim, sort-of male, sexually unreliable, overcomplicated, occasionally self-loathing, but also (he hopes) kind, emotionally aware, highly affectionate person who can also cook, sing in tune and do his own laundry, seeks broad-minded, longsuffering, loving female companion to share his beautiful country-house apartment and impressive, covetable, size 12-14 wardrobe.
It’s a stretch, I admit. But I’m open to offers. Really.
I am scared by the prospect of a six-hour operation on my face… Ditto, the operation after that… you know, that one