Wendy is 48 years old and has been living as a woman for two and a half years. She has been taking hormones for just over one year, she states it has been making her a lot calmer and there are slow but noticeable changes in her physicality.
Wendy always noticed she was different from the age of five and it was nearly twenty years ago in 2002, when she knew for sure that she should live her life as a woman.
She used to be called Michael in her earlier life, where she had a wife and children, who she no longer is in contact with. Wendy grew up in a religious family as a Jehovah witness. Sadly, she no longer has contact with her siblings or parents. Her mum does not accept the life Wendy wants to live and refuses to see her in the flesh. Though she does talk to Wendy over the phone, “she does not want to see me… she thinks I will come to my senses one day”. Nowadays, she lives in a very accepting area of Bristol. “I never get cisgendered – i’m always called love, darling, or miss”. The bank did on two occasions in the past refer to her as sir, which she immediately corrected them for, “it makes me feel very uptight, straight away”.
“When you know – you know. It’s certain – i’ve always felt like a woman”.
I was not won over by this statement, I do not think anything is certain so I asked her later on in our conversation if she ever had any doubts. Apparently the gender clinic asks this question a lot, – whether she has any thoughts about wanting to stop the whole process. Wendy answered that occasionally she has small doubts – fleeting moments. More so because of the depression caused by waiting for the gender reversal operation.
At the moment she is waiting for a second opinion from an independent psychiatrist, to see if she is sound of mind and that her perception of herself is not dysphoria. If all goes well, she will then go to a surgeon for physical examination to assess what needs to be done to create the physical attributes of being female.
Then it is down to the waiting list.
I ask her if the non-reversal element to the whole process is something that worries her. She hesitates, but answers that no. She has had her children – she states that maybe she would be more worried when she was younger, but not now, this is something she is happy with undergoing. That is, if it gets the approval of the gender clinic. She accepts that it is not something to be taking lightly. “I’m so lucky here in the UK”, Wendy discusses how the NHS has helped her, “in another country, I would be screwed”.
I see many arguments against the priorities of gender related services under the NHS, but these services are essential to the well-being of certain individuals. There is an abnormally high suicide rate within the transgender community and other mental health issues related to gender. Wendy has borderline personality disorder which is a behavioural disorder that causes irrational thinking, feelings of abandonment and not being able to see situations clearly. If she is alone for any length of time she starts to become anxious and feels an overbearing sense of “i’m alone in the world”.
Growing up with religion, Wendy battled with her true feelings towards her gender. She either had to suppress her true identity or risk being extradited from the community and family she knew.
Wendy is attracted to women, but finds dating tricky. She says many people assume because she wants to be a woman, that she likes men. In fact, Wendy was surprised that people make this assumption and she found it more natural to like women as a transgender woman. She claimed nothing had changed in her mind, it was just the exterior that was changing. Which left me with complex questions about the relation between our exteriors and interiors. When we started to discuss dating in connection to gender and sexuality, I felt Wendy’s thoughts were less concise and focused.
But that’s OK, humans are not meant to be concise narrow lines of information. Wendy does not need to adhere to the social constructs of gender and relationships.
Sometimes it is hard to understand, but with acceptance and patience, maybe society will come to understand.