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.
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.
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?