Navigating sexuality through transition can be a daunting process. In this blog post, one of our GenderGP community members shares her first hand account:
Sometimes I am amazed it took me forty years to realise that I am transgender and sixty years to do anything about it. I think that it is understandable that I wasn’t aware of it when I was seven years old, wearing my sister’s dance leotard in secret. However maybe I should have figured it out by the time I was sixteen borrowing the same sister’s blue velvet halterneck dress.
I did not plan or reflect on my crossdressing. I just did it on impulse to make myself feel happy during bad times as a teenager. However this was the 1960s and 70s, decades before anyone I knew talked about being transgender. Also I found women attractive and I had strong feelings when I was around them plus I was horny for heterosexual sex. Isn’t that how teenage boys are supposed to feel?
There were other telltale signs in addition to the crossdressing. Despite a fair amount of interest from girls I found it very difficult to behave sexually as a male. I didn’t understand until much later that my strong feelings for girls came from wanting to be like them rather than the typical heterosexual attraction. I never felt comfortable in the company of other boys and preferred to spend time platonically with females, whenever I could. The occasional stories about sex changes in the Sunday papers and on TV made me feel like I had just received an electric shock. This must have been because somewhere in my subconscious I knew that was what I wanted for myself.
When I left home I was busy with university and starting a career. I no longer cross-dressed. This could have been due to lack of opportunity or because I was happier now that I was getting on with my adult life. I really wanted a family and I married in my mid 20s. The friendship with my wife, plus bringing up three kids made me feel happy and fulfilled. My sex life was not very active but it was pleasurable when we did it. I thought at the time that the lack of activity was due to my wife but now I am not so sure.
After my son was born, my wife decided that she did not want any more children and I had a vasectomy. This was the mid 90s in the early days of the web and it coincided with my discovery of a website called abgender which still exists. It is a directory for crossdressing and transgender businesses and resources. However, in those days it also had personal pages, an early version of social media, where transgender females posted pictures and stories about their transition and day to day lives. I was fascinated by these profiles. I am not sure whether I was reading them for weeks or months before I recognised that I felt the same as they did. At this point I became fully conscious of the transgender feelings that had only previously existed in my subconscious.
I admitted to myself that I was transgender and I told my wife. I still remember the look of shock and fear on her face, although it turned out that she was OK with it in principle. I, on the other hand, was terrified at the prospect of admitting it to the world and transitioning seemed like an impossibility. I refused to talk about it anymore, even with my wife, although it obsessed me in private for another twenty years. This was the point at which I allowed myself to imagine myself as female when I thought about sex. Actually from this point I found it hard to imagine myself as male anymore.
My mental health deteriorated. Life can be full of interacting stresses that affect mental health and it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint an exact cause, but I am pretty sure that my mental health would have been much better if I had talked about being transgender. I am not sure who would have been the right person to talk to though as I was too ashamed and embarrassed at the time to talk to anybody. I became depressed, difficult to live with and could no longer feel any pleasure from sex. A few years later my wife also became depressed and withdrew from me both physically and socially. We lost the ability to communicate with each other and our mutual unhappiness pushed us further and further apart. Despite attending relationship counselling, we stayed together until my son left school and then divorced.
Nevertheless, I convinced myself that I was only partly transgender and that I could still have a successful romantic heterosexual relationship. My reasoning was that I thought women were beautiful and I enjoyed their company and the feeling seemed to be mutual. I still kept my transgender feelings completely secret. Looking back it is difficult to believe that I could have been so stupid. I think now that I was confusing feelings of envy of women – with feelings of attraction to women. Needless to say my romantic and sexual life was a total disaster. I lacked sexual passion and I never managed to regain any feelings of sexual pleasure.
On the other hand I found it easy to have platonic friendships with women. However, these could be slightly awkward because the women sometimes thought that I was gay, sometimes that a platonic friendship was a prelude to a romantic relationship or alternatively that the friendship was just odd, because I didn’t talk or behave in the same way as other men. I reached another low point when I belatedly accepted that I was never going to succeed at a romantic relationship. Having nothing more to lose, I finally talked to a counsellor about my transgender feelings and I started to transition with hormones thanks to GenderGP.
I still don’t know why I could feel sexual pleasure in my 20s and 30s but not since then. However I do know that, despite liking the idea of having heterosexual sex as a woman, I don’t find men physically attractive. I also now know that I really just want platonic friendships with women and lesbian relationships don’t feel right for me. It is a bit of a no win situation as far as sex is concerned. However my transition has made me the happiest that I have been since my children were small. What I would REALLY like is to be a heterosexual cis female with the associated feelings. However that is not possible and I am much happier as an asexual trans female than I was as a man and I have to be content with that.
Switching hormones from testosterone to oestrogen has suppressed the frustrating sexual feelings that I had no way of consummating. It’s a cliché but I finally feel that I can be my true self and I can imagine a contented future. I think that I always really wanted to be a wife, rather than a husband. That might now be possible in a platonic way and, even if it isn’t, there will still be opportunities to express my nurturing and supportive nature in my relationships. In a world that seems to need labels, my sexuality is best described as asexual, although I admit that I know very little about the asexual community. Ironically I don’t feel as though I have changed. Rather, I have found a path that suits me.
Photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash