Theresa Davis: Life After Sex Change
[United Kingdom] - I am a transsexual, not a transvestite. There is a difference and it's an important one. A transvestite is someone who dresses like someone of the opposite sex.
This is normally shortened to TV. The Americans call them CDs, or cross-dressers.
A friend of mine once considered having t-shirts printed with "I am not a TV or a CD" on the front. On the back would be ". . . and I'm not a VCR either".
It was a joke, but there is a point to be made. We are not one and the same. We do not do this for any sexual or other kicks. It's a common misconception that, because we change sex, there must be something sexual in it.
Approximately one in every 10,000 people is born transsexual. There has never been an accurate figure placed on the number in the UK but it is thought to be around 5,000.
Medical research is divided on the origins of transexuality. We know that we are all female when we are in the womb and that it is not until about six to eight weeks that a flood of hormones determines our sex.
In the case of transsexuals, the current thinking is that something goes wrong with this process and the body and the mind become affected in different ways so that the gender of the mind is out of step with that of the body.
Recent studies of the brain structure have determined similarities between male to female transsexuals and those born female.
The right-to-marry aspect is only one part of a much larger issue. Since the divorce case of April Ashley in 1970 where the courts ruled that you could not alter your legal status, we have been unable to alter our birth certificates to reflect our new gender.
This means that, in the eyes of the law, we are still the gender to which we were born. So we are forced at every stage to disclose the information about our status.
Our tax and national insurance records remain in our original gender.
If I was arrested and sent to prison, I could be sent to a male one.
Elements with the press continue to sensationalise our situation. I know several people who have been the subject of front-page tabloid headlines. I was also unfortunate enough to be splashed across the front of my local paper shortly after I started to live full time in my new role.
The most upsetting thing about most press reports is that they insist on using the incorrect personal pronouns such as "he" and "his" .
It's not only wrong but disrespectful.
People tell me constantly how brave I must be. Why? I don't know. What I did didn't take courage. It was just something I felt I had to do. I changed sex, that's all.
I had no choice. I was born with the external appearance of a boy but my innermost feelings and thoughts were that of a girl. Most people simply cannot grasp why we take such drastic action and many see it as a lifestyle choice. I can only say that, anyone choosing this way of life would need to see a psychiatrist. That is the first step in the processof seeking treatment. For most, the route to this is long and hard. It can take ages even to get a first referral.
Waiting times for the few specialist centres in the UK are measured in years - and you only join the list when your GP and health authority have agreed to fund your treatment.
For many like myself, the torturous route through the NHS was just too daunting to face. I was lucky that I could afford to seek treatment privately as many do.
Many transsexuals are met with hostility and fear and are treated as freaks and deviants. Many lose their jobs and are reluctant to take cases to industrial tribunals for fear of further ridicule.
This improved over the years following significant victories. Yet, still, employers are largely ignorant about how the law relates to transsexuals. Simple things, such as which toilet the employee should use, can become major issues.
Just walking down the road for many transsexuals can be a major task. I have lost count of how many times I have had abuse shouted at me from across the street.
Shortly after my surgery in 2000, I was sitting at home when there was, what seemed like a large explosion with glass flying everywhere. I dived over the sofa and recovered to find in front of the fireplace a large lump of concrete about the size of quarter of a paving slab.
When my partner and I went out side to inspect the damage, we discovered where the rest of the slab had gone. Into the windscreen, bonnet and both doors of our car.
A week later we were sitting upstairs - we no longer felt safe in our lounge - watching the CCTV system we had installed after the previous attacks - when four youths threw a brick through the car's side window.
In my rush down the stairs I slipped and ended up in casualty with a severely sprained ankle. The damage to my partner, however, was a lot worse and harder to deal with. Just weeks later she took an overdose and ended up in the psychiatric unit of the local hospital. To date, she suffers from bouts of depression.
Thankfully, we have an extensive support network which has built up both through the internet and local groups. Without that support, many people would simply not understand their condition and believe that they are the only person who feels that way.
Social events are hard to arrange due to the lack of transsexual friendly venues. Some of us are reluctant to venture out. And until public opinion changes, things will remain that way.
Related Stories:July 11, 2002 - British Transsexuals Recognised as Women
July 11, 2002 - Press For Change: A Legal Landmark, But It's Not The End
July 11, 2002 - UK Ordered To Rewrite TG Laws
July 11, 2002 - Court Opinion: Grand Chamber Judgment in the Case of Christine Goodwin v. The United Kingdom