Climbing out of the abyss – Part 3a

Into the Abyss – Jeffrey S. Rease

KAPOW!!! KAPOW!!! KAPOW!!! I’ve had three of those moments this last fortnight. You know the sort of moments that in cartoons are shown as a thumping great boxing glove smacking your hero in the face. The stars start spinning and chirpy little baby birds sing and fly around their head. Ouch, that’ll hurt in the morning! Three times over…

The first of these came the morning after I saw the Consultant Psychiatrist a week ago last Thursday. He was a top bloke, from Southern India,  and for about an hour he listened patiently and asked me questions about my feelings; around my gender identity, my relationship with myself, my depression. And how I have come to be at this point in my life where I feel I absolutely must transition to male.
He was happy to help me and provide me with the referral letter I needed to get to see the Gender Identity Clinic in London. Not only that but he wants to see me after my treatment and talk to him about how its all gone. He felt that blogging is an excellent way of sharing my narrative as it may well help professionals who want to develop their therapeutic practice with transgender people, as well as help me and others around me.
When I was with the psychiatrist he asked me if I had any thoughts as to why I was transgender. I said I honestly did not know anything other than what I felt in the core of my very being. I had read stuff about exposure to hormones as a foetus but I had no idea what was biological, psychological or social about gender identity. He told me that the latest stuff he had read appeared to indicate that there is a very critical window of sensitivity to hormonal influence when embryos are about 72 hours old. Up until that point the cells of the embryo are ‘female’ and after this ‘window of sensitivity’ is closed that is when embryos become ‘male’ or ‘female’. It was quite possible he said, that there were processes going on at that point that have profound effects on later gender identity.
I deeply connected with what he was telling me and I described to him what I was learning about the diversity of genders and sexualities in nature through reading Joan Roughgarden’s book ‘Evolution’s Rainbow’ .  I wondered if at THAT point in embryonic development a whole plethora of gender diversity was potentially available to individuals (as seen in the natural world) but that because in our Anglo-Saxon societies we only have traditionally socially accepted two gender boxes – male or female – babies are put into one or the other from birth.
It was a fascinating discussion to have with a psychiatrist! He told me that his profession had for many many years been guilty of forcing individuals who experienced themselves not fitting into the rigid binary ‘male’ or ‘female’, to choose one or the other. He reflected back that it is no wonder that people like myself have often experienced a deep inner identity crisis all through their lives as we struggle with trying to ‘fit’ the powerfully extensive binary social genders in many of our cultures. He saw a deep link between this lifelong identity issue and my also lifelong sense of depression (my mum did also have post-natal depression badly when I was 4 weeks old and I would have experienced her feelings as my own at that very early age).
At the end of our meeting, the psychiatrist said that he had no need to see me again for a pre-treatment consultation and he fully supported me going ahead with the referral to the gender identity specialists. But he reiterated the importance of my narrative, as someone who not only was experiencing this from the inside-out, but who also worked in a therapeutic context. I had a good developing understanding of the biological, psychological and social theories of gender, and he felt my narrative would be really useful for developing the understanding of other therapeutic professionals!
Wow! I might get my book out of this after all 🙂
The following morning, after the wave of excitedness I felt following my successful referral meeting, with a profound sense of loss. It really hit home to me, as I stood in the early morning mist of Rubi’s mum’s garden having a smoke. It has taken me 43 years to find out who I am and make sense of a bit about WHY I am too. It was no-one’s fault I had not been aware of this yet. Had I been born in the 1990’s maybe things would have been different?  I had a few tears but they were not angry tears this time. They were tears of sadness for my younger self who went through hell to get the opportunity to grow into the man he wants to be.
There will be plenty of tears of joy to come – well I am a bloomin’ Scorpio water sign 😉 – and I will not be ashamed one bit to be a man who can cry.

About Sam Feeney

I am a counsellor, trainer and LGBTQI community activist. I write about my journey through life as a someone who lives and breathes gender and sexual difference and who cares passionately about creating powerful and sustainable radical social and political change.
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