The wrong trousers
David Thomas’s transgender diary
I was at a party filled with people I hadn’t seen in years, or even decades, when an old university friend of mine came up and said, ‘There’s something I’d really like to talk to you about.’
Well, I had a pretty good idea what the general subject of that conversation was going to be. I mean, if she’d been dying to ask, ‘What do you think of the new-bourgeois look for autumn ’19?’ I’d have been delighted to tell her, ‘Darling, if I had a single spare penny to spend, I’d be all over it like a rash.’ But, frankly, the odds were against it.
My guess was that a young person’s possible trans-ness was going to be debated, perhaps even one of my friend’s own children. So I turned to her and said, ‘Sure, how can I help?’
It turned out that my friend’s kids were quite content with the genders they’d been born with. Phew! But she had recently met a woman whose daughter, now in her 20s, was a female-to-male transsexual. This daughter was in the process of transition and had undergone a double mastectomy, to remove all traces of her breasts.
The young woman’s mother was supportive of her being trans but had been very distressed by the thought of her beautiful girl mutilating her youthful, healthy body. My friend sympathised very deeply with the mother’s anguish and she wondered what I thought.
I replied by saying that I could completely see why any parent would find it hard to understand why their child, whose body they deeply loved, wanted to carry out what might seem like an act of self-desecration.
I added that I was very cautious indeed about encouraging children and teens who have been diagnosed as transgender to do anything to their bodies until they are old enough to make their own, adult decisions. After all, they may decide not to transition, in which case they need the bodies they were born with to be as healthy and welldeveloped as possible. But in this case, the ‘child’ was in her 20s. By any standards they were an adult, entitled to make their own, grown-up choices. If they wanted to transition, then a mastectomy was an inevitable part of that process. I reflected that, from their point of view, it would not feel like mutilation or desecration at all, but a positive step towards the bringing together of their physical and mental identities. For them, they would be becoming their true self.
Intellectually, my friend took my point. Emotionally, however, she quite understandably felt a stronger bond to a mother’s pain than a young transperson’s liberation.
Truth be told, I don’t really blame her. One of the things that stopped me for decades from embracing the truth of my own gender identity was precisely the fact that it seemed not only unwise but also somehow immoral to mess with the body I’d been born with.
How could I be so ungrateful? I was tall, healthy, reasonably athletic. I’d have to be an idiot to give that up.
True, there were things about my appearance that bugged me: my jagged teeth, my fleshy jowls and the depressing disappearance of hair from the top of my head. But none of those flaws was worth the attention of a plastic surgeon.
And yet, as I talked to my friend, I did so having just booked – and put down the deposit on – a six-hour operation to completely reshape my face.
It means that on one day in late November, I will have a lower facelift and brow lift. In order to hold my repositioned flesh in place, plastic ‘carpet grips’ about 10cm long will be positioned beneath the skin of my cheeks and forehead. The grips will take several weeks to dissolve and, when they are gone, my face will have healed itself into place.
The fleshy tip of my nose will also be reduced and refined. Finally, my upper lip will be lifted, by removing a tiny strip of flesh just below the end of my nose and then pulling everything up tight.
This latter procedure, so minor that it could be carried out in around 45 minutes under local anaesthetic, if that was all I wanted, is the only specifically feminising element of the entire procedure. Everything else is just what plastic surgeons like to call ‘refreshing’ one’s appearance.
But still, I am going to put my perfectly adequate face under the knife. So when my friend told me about that mother, and how hard it is for her to accept her daughter’s choice, I immediately thought of my own father.
I may be old enough to have grandchildren, but I am still his son, his boy. And all I can say is, Dad, if all this is hurting you, I swear I feel your pain.
One of the things that stopped me for decades was that it seemed immoral to mess with the body I’d been born with