This is inspired – i think that’s the right word – by Karen Gale: she of “My Transsexual Summer” fame. For she has recently been breaking with tradition (again) and quite happily offering up before pics on Facebook, as well as various versions of after. Karen blonde and… Karen deep brunette.
I think i approve of this… and not just because i’ve felt often a certain affinity with her. Same age, give or take twelve months. Started to transition around the same time. Under the knife within a month of one another and, by another quirk of fate, both of us shot by Tv documentarists legs up on the operating table: she about to be attacked by the suave and debonair Mr Bellringer, myself about to suffer similarly at the hands of the equally suave and debonair Mr Thomas.
We’ve met. We’ve chatted. There’s another of those intriguing trans things: if we hadn’t both chosen this path, then i doubt we’d ever have met. Our lives before were very different.
But i’ve noticed this before: there is a community amongst trans folk…strongest, in my experience, between trans women – though i can hardly speak for trans men. For all i know, they have much the same. Because whoever we were before, the things we go through: the pain, rejection, abuse, humiliation; all build a bond so much stronger than anything i’ve ever known.
So we are sisters, in a way we never might have been otherwise.
But here’s the thing. Karen has put up pics of herself before on Facebook. Typically, there have been three reactions:
– My, but you’ve changed!
– My, but you look prettier! or
– I fancy you both!
That’s nice. Also nicely democratic, as far as the last goes.
There may be one or two pursed lips among the wider community: after all, this is the sort of thing we are always telling the press not to do. But i think there’s a difference – and its an important one to boot.
For Karen owns her past. If she chooses to make it public, that’s her business. Too, she is proud of who she is now, and far enough from who she was to be able to put the two up side by side and compare.
I’m with her on that. Where the press so often fail on this is the way they run round in circles desperate to put up before and after pics pretty much on day one of transition. Because transition stories often break during the early stages of the process – and that means minimum distance, maximum embarrassment to the subject.
Sure, permission is sought and given. Yet this is where so many don’t spot the trap. Day one, often, the average trans woman is little more than a bloke in a dress. No hormones. Little real life experience. A lengthy catalogue of fashion and make-up faux pas. Its a cruel comparison. It contributes, too, to the popular myth that transition is ineffective.
A little like some of the cruel tweeting that greeted Sarah, also off MTS, during the first couple of shows.
So all power to Karen for doing this. I won’t. Not for a while. But i get the difference.
A year or two back there was still overlap, still commonality between me and the somewhat chubby middle-aged blokey body i inhabited. For a while, i didn’t even want to look at pics of him.
Now i can. I do with a sense of utter fascination. I’m not him: we are two quite different people and, if i have to say anything about the two of us, it is how proud i am to have moved on from there.
Transition has made a difference. I no longer mind people seeing.