In search of support

Of course, the other serious thing that today’s foray into the Guardian (not to mention the documentary coming up in a week or so’s time) is how poorly provided for are those nearest and dearest who pick up the sideswipe from any individual’s decision to transition.

Because at the end of the day, even though so much of the therapic support on offer is directed at the person sat at the centre of the storm, it is often those close by who are in greater need of it – and also less able to access any support.

If you’ve read my blog over the months and years, you’ll be pretty well aware of how “easy” it has all been, in one sense, for me. Easy psychologically, that is. I’ve known who I am pretty much from day one. Before day one, even, if you count that as the day I first made contact with the health services, both private and public.

I knew that I had a massive gender problem: knew that the only way to resolve it was through transition; and from that moment, my focus was twofold. First, on the nuts and bolts of the process: the various hurdles I had to jump through in order to achieve what I needed. And second, on dealing with the day to day nastiness of random bigots: Once or twice, dealing with sentiment that shaded over into violence.

The impact

On the other hand, andrea, my partner, had to deal with what she has essentially described as a bereavement. And Tash, today, in the Guardian, comes out with a most perceptive comment:

“mostly people were saying that me and Dad were so brave; I even got a hug off one of my teachers. Yet I was thinking, ‘Dad’s really brave, I’ve just had it inflicted.’ There was nothing I could do about it, even if I didn’t want it to happen.”

Its all part and parcel of the cliché circus that surrounds this process. Was I brave? No. What I did was necessary: or at least, necessary in the sense that the alternative was spending the rest of my life in growing depression and bitterness which, eventually, I suspect, would have infected my relationships anyway.

I’d have grown distant, out of self-revulsion, rather than anything else. There was the uber-optimistic piece that andrea and I did at the outset to the Mail, as much to provide encouragement for other partners going through this as anything, about how transition “changed nothing”.

Gosh, we were naïve! Of course it does: but probably never in ways you expect.

The unsupport

After which she and Tash were on their own. About the only support on offer was the NHS’ mental health support teams, which required a diagnosis of depression and which, two years on, has proven remarkably useless. In part, because without experience of the area, the response of mental health professionals has been mainly to revert to tabloid memes about “what they must be going through”.

And, as mentioned in a recent post, the “wobblers – women of the Beaumont Society, whose take on trans issues is that it is mostly about cross-dressing and needs to be discouraged …if necessary by hitting the offending individual (or member) with a wooden ruler until such time as they subside.

While I retain some respect for the Beaumont Society for what they have achieved over the years, I have very very little for WOBS. The fact that andrea and I discussed such things meant that after early exposure to the wobblers’ woeful wiffling, we mostly just fell about laughing.

But there is a darker side: I have encountered story after story of individuals for whom ill-considered intervention by what is essentially a sexist, misogynistic and transphobic organization has proven disastrous to existing relationships. And if we hadn’t been so well supported by friends in the trans and gender queer community, I think we too might have taken damage from that quarter.

The point? There is support out there for individuals who transition: precious little for their families. Given the growing incidence of transition in the UK, isn’t it about time that changed?

jane xx

10 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Alex said,

    “The point? There is support out there for individuals who transition: precious little for their families. Given the growing incidence of transition in the UK, isn’t it about time that changed?”

    Although not religious, all I can say is, “Amen.”

  2. 2

    So very well put Jane. It really is the huge gap in the story, and I echo it wholeheartedly. People say how brave I am / have been, and OK, I guess I’ve risked everything to find myself. But it wasn’t courage, it was inevitability. Not quite “do or die” for me, but “live or be severely emotionally disabled”. There’s no bravery in facing potentially deciding between the love of your life and your personal integrity.

    But more to the point, once I decided to be out there, that was my decision. For my wife there was the simultaneous issue of coming to terms with change, grief at loss, confusion, rapid learning the facts of transness, worrying about family (massively polarised) – and no time to deal with finding a friend with guaranteed trust, to explain out of new knowledge, put them right and then defend my position when she wasn’t sure about it anyway (still isn’t). She wasn’t even ready to meet other trans people or partners. It was BIG, suddenly there without any more question, and with nowhere to go. A new, changed world, forever. Being out made her OUT, and she wasn’t equipped, hadn’t chosen, and what did she need? Sympathy? Poor love for being married to that weird man (?), can’t he just do it when you’re not there? What DOES he do on a Friday night, is he gay?? I never wished that cruelty, I wasn’t being selfish (deserves a blog post) and I had a group who understood, but she didn’t. There is nothing. We found ££therapy and it helps, but for all the clinical acceptance now of trans identity, partners and wives are being left to their own devices.

    Yes, time that changed. Loving marriages and partnerships don’t have to always break up, even if they have to change.

  3. 3

    May I ask ‘What documentary?’ Please don’t say there is another documentary supposedly investigating career trans people😦

    • 4

      janefae said,

      I wondered when you were going to pick up on this, since i did mention it a way back, but then i think you thought i meant the Transsexual Summer one, and therefore turned your ire in that direction.

      I agreed to participate, way back, in a programme looking mostly at the experiences of partners and family. My other half is there. So, too is duaghter, young boy, and chickens. I don’t exactly see it as “career move”…though i am more than expecting you to regard it otherwise.

      Whatever: if you do take it in that lighti’m hardly going to apologise, though i shall hunker down for the inevitable tirade i suspect you will send in my direction. It is what it is: and however outraged it makes you i still hope to meet you on relatively amicable terms at some point in the next twelve months or so.

      jane xx

      • 5

        Nah, nothing could come close to the morons of MTS, that is unless you’ve decided to take up naked pole dancing. I was about to say I probably won’t watch it as I’ve learned my lesson re: trans documentaries BUT…. I have always rather enjoyed ‘the boy’s’ take on things. It is my second worst regret that I have no children and never will so tend to revel in the more interesting behaviour of others kids. Please tell me that ‘the boy’ is doing the voice over. I’d be riveted.

        As for me, I’m sure I must be an annoyance to varying levels but while I’m still transitioning I feel compelled to rail against some of the idiotic people and opinions I see peddled amongst the trans media lovies.

        I know this is going to seem rather weird to you Jane but I do rather like you and enjoy reading your blog. I know I shouldn’t admit to this but a few of my comments have been made recently as I needed something to do with my hands as I quit smoking a couple of months ago. Doesn’t mean I don’t think some of the people commenting aren’t prats and some of your opinions are wrong. I think you spend too much time listening to TMW and those gender queer nutters, oh and bloody academics.

        I will always tell it as I see it and am not a keyboard warrior as I have and will say these things to peoples faces.

        xxx

  4. 6

    Louise Harris said,

    Well done Tash, and well done Jane. You can both be very proud of each other. The love shines through and nothing else matters xx

  5. 7

    Amy said,

    I have just read the Guardian article and would first simply like to say how wonderful your daughter sounds. She is clearly an intelligent and balanced young woman who loves you enormously. And likewise your affection and concern for your family is very evident.

    I have personal experience of a family friend whose father underwent transition, but handled informing his wife and children very badly, the negative effects of which lasted for many years. Thank you for highlighting the lack of support available to families; dealing with these very personal issues in public must take a great deal of courage.

    This blog and your efforts to raise awareness of the issues surrounding dysphoria can surely only help those living with it, and in turn aid their families. I wish you and your family all the very best for the future.

  6. 8

    Jenna said,

    We’ve found it really hard to find support for our son to help him deal with me transitioning. We’ve looked all the more obvious online sites and the only one that we found that had anything for youngsters was GIRES and a nurse friend that looked at the website with him actually said that she found it very dry and not likely to interest youngsters. This is a nurse that deals with youngsters with life threatening illnesses and so needs to explain extremely serious and complicated subjects to them. I have just discovered Transparentcy recently but haven’t looked at it properly. It does seem though that there is a big gap in support for youngsters.

  7. 9

    Jenny said,

    Just as all our paths are different, so are those of our partners.

    Fortunately my wife has eschewed the likes of WOBS. She has found her best support from within the trans community itself. Ironically a significant number of whom have been Beaumont Society members.

    I think she initially had a steely determination to see off the Evil Trannies who might Take Away her Man, but was pleasantly surprised to find a friendly and supportive group of ladies and some other partners.

    It is easy to castigate the WOBS for their view of us, but I will refrain from doing so. All partners handle this differently, and I can’t blame some of them for being hostile, however unfortunate it may be. If they find support for each other in such an environment then that is their right. This is not in the manual for Being A Wife.

    With respect to the NHS services, my wife has had reasonable luck to find good practitioners. In fact it’s seemed at times as though they’re doing everything for her and nothing for me, such is the ease of saying “You’re in the queue for Charing Cross, they’ll help you!” even though that queue is very very long and some help now might be appreciated.

    Probably our most helpful experience came from Relate couples counseling. People think of it as warring couples arguing over who gets which end of the family dog, but for us it provided a very useful safe space to explore some issues.

  8. 10

    Kirstie said,

    I read the article with great interest and you come across as very proud of your daughter just as she is of you. There is a sad lack of appropriate support for the affected families of transitioning people and it is only articles like this that will help to generate the public awareness needed to provide the support. The comment about being a career trans is in my opinion somewhat misguided. If it were not for people like you Jane then there would be far less support for the transsexual community as a whole never mind the families. I speak from experience being one of those ‘transdads’ with 3 daughters all of whom stayed with me and saw me right through transition. It is not easy telling loved ones, my father at 84 was one of the hardest and most painful experiences I can recall. Careful planning and timing is an essential part of this as is confidence. Yes I am also public and will do what I can to raise awareness of this condition. I wish you well in the remainder of your journey. Kirstie


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