Friday, 29 April 2011

In which I lose a friend

    A month or so ago I lost a friend at the hands of a surgeon, on the operating table at the Nuffield Hospital in Brighton.
    I first encountered her last year, at which point she had been full-time female for less than a year. An attractive girl a few years older than me, her strident views and combative nature didn't do her any favours among the orthodoxy of the community of trans people through which we knew each other but we both got on pretty well and I came to regard her as a friend. She was fortunate in her build and in having visited a good facial surgeon so she had confidence in her appearance and I never saw her have any issues with being spotted.
    Unusually she claimed never to have suffered from gender dysphoria, presumably meaning that she didn't suffer from the crushing depression and hopelessness in being male that a lot of readers will find familiar. Her path took her through the private healthcare system rather than the NHS, so as far as I am aware she began hormones before going full-time and the diagnosis criteria were different from those we might find at an NHS GIC.
    She took going off hormones pre-GRS harder than most. For the first time, she said, she understood gender dysphoria. Better late than never I suppose, but it must have been a shock to her. Because almost immediately on her return from the Nuffield following her GRS she announced that she was now going stealth, and that she no longer wished to associate with her trans friends.

    And that's how I lost my friend.

    Good luck to her I suppose. If she can do it. She wouldn't be the first trans woman to go stealth, though she's the first I've heard of doing it before her surgery has healed.
    But I can't help feeling sad at the abrupt loss of a friend, concerned for her wellbeing and above all shocked at her path through the medical system,
    Sad at the loss of a friend, because it's as if it were a bereavement. When she made her announcement it hit me hard. I retreated into my shell. It always hurts a little when a friend makes a great stride in transition that you can't, but for her to make such a stride and then dump everyone really hurt. I can tell she meant it when she said she never really experienced gender dysphoria, because had she done so she wouldn't have treated in that way those among her friends who do experience it. Hell, it wasn't as though she had to face the embarrassment of being associated with a Widow Twankey Tranny, she only once ever saw me as anything but the scruffy bloke.
     Concerned for her wellbeing because I don't think she's dealt with her issues. I think she is only now discovering that there is more to this than acquiring a pretty face and other female enhancements from a surgeon. If she locks herself into the closet that going stealth can become then she will find it very difficult to find help, and as someone who still considers herself a friend I wish I could avoid that happening.
     And shocked at her path through the medical system because I do not believe her doctors to have been acting in her best interests. As far as I am aware she went through the entire process in the absolute minimum time possible under the Standards of Care, and given both her obvious issues now and that she claimed all along never to have suffered from gender dysphoria I find wanting the medics who authorised her treatment without significant examination of why she took that position.
    I hope her going stealth was simply due to her being in a hormonal mix-up following her surgery and I hope she'll pop up again as if nothing has happened. With luck she'll be wiser for the experience. But if she does I hope she also realises that her path was not as smooth as it might have appeared to her when taking it, and takes the time to face up to the consequences of that.

   Because you know what? I'd hate to lose her once again, this time permanently.

(Edit, Dec 2011: she has surfaced, but I have mixed feelings about it which I've detailed here)


  1. Hi Jenny.

    Your "By-line" definately grabbed my attention and I can understand your feelins of loss. Also, I agree that it IS unusual for her..."never to have suffered from gender dysphoria, presumably meaning that she didn't suffer from the crushing depression and hopelessness in being male that a lot of readers will find familiar."

    I mean, after all, what was going on for the first 40 or 50 years of her life?
    However, "her strident views and combative nature, (which), didn't do her any favours among the orthodoxy of the community of trans people..." seems to indicate that perhaps she was not in fact "trans". Perhaps, like that very tiny percentage of us, she really was, "just a woman, stuck in the body of a bloke".

    "If she locks herself into the closet that going stealth can become then she will find it very difficult to find help" Help? Help for what?

    In a lot of ways your friend's story sounds vaguely familiar to me except for the age of transition.

    Many, many decades ago, when I was young, I was PERCIEVED by others as a happy, sexually active, heterosexual male. Then...I just disappeared, (to them), never to be seen or heard from again, (total, deep stealth).

    But stealth was NOT a closet. In truth it was the totality of the real and entire world. I was free of my "maleness" and THAT past.

    There existed only the future, as it still does today, although I now have a full and colorful past as a woman.

    So I don't really know enough about your friend or her circumstances, but for some of us, it is just easier if we can just "step across" that gender divide and leave all thatt trauma and drama behind.

    Would that we were all so fortuate. Perhaps that is why I am sometimes a bit strident in extolling the virtues of self reliance and personal responsibility. At least that way allows us the freedom to fail...or if we are so fortunate, succeed by virtue of our own merit.

  2. The idea of creating a year zero is wholly alien to me, as I cleared out my closet years ago and don't intend to put anything into it again. Who was it who said (of a Tory politician) "greater love hath no man, than that he lay down his friends for his life..." Sorry they've dumped you, Jenny. It's harder to be dumped than to do the dumping, I think.

  3. Morning Anne,
    Knowing the girl in question, and also knowing through the same community one or two who better fit your description I wouldn't put her in that category. "Strident views and combative nature" was a euphemism for "Enjoys arguing about anything, from football to shopping and everything else in between". I agree with you that you'd think something might have gone on during those four decades or so, it certainly did for me.
    I have seen more than one for whom stealth becomes a prison. They build a facade of perfection for themselves which prevents them from admitting that things have gone wrong, thus they end up very lonely indeed. If my friend can do what you did then I'm happy for her even though I'm sad to lose her. But knowing her I'm not sure she will, and I'd hate to hear she ended up in the alternative situation I described.

  4. Morning Dru,
    I have a similar line, I'm done with closets. I wave few flags and do not shout about it, but since hiding everything only bought unimaginable stress I'm not going back.
    Perhaps I should have listened more closely to the vicar all those years ago, then I wouldn't have had to Google that quote.
    Being dumped? I suppose it's a new experience, to be dumped by a girl without engaging in an extra-marital affair! :)

  5. In the same way I didn't 'suffer' the effects of dysphoria although I had a lifetime of desire focussed on being the woman I knew I really was. Denial was futile but it took me years before I had the opportunity to transition. I was obviously in stealth mode throughout my life and that has continued since my transition. There was no problem with former friendships because I didn't have any friends. Those friends I have now though do know about my history but I never speak about my past as a male. I think your friend may have not actually suffered from the dysphoria but probably was very much aware that she was indeed a woman. Again, in the same way as she, I didn't really wish to socialise with my former transgendered friends, those I met during the few short years before my operation. I was a woman in every sense now and it just seemed natural to sever those friendships. You will probably find this is true for many that have gone through the portal as it were. It isn't the case for everyone though I am quick to add. Some people become activists in the fight for the rights of the transgendered community and therefore relinquish going stealth. What I am saying Jenny is that her decision to cut the cord doesn't mean she is rejecting you or anyone else as a person but she simply wishes to move further down the path she has chosen. As for stealth being a journey into another closet, that is far from being true unless that closet is the rest of the world. In that respect we are all in closets! Love

    Shirley Anne xxx

  6. I can only speak for my own path with any certainty, perhaps my closet created more problems than it should have.

    Stealth doesn't have to be a closet. It obviously isn't for you. But I can think of acquaintances for whom it most definitely has become one.

  7. After my transition 20 years ago, I went stealthy. For a variety of reasons I purposely delayed transition until my mid 30s but I never had much issue with "passing" during transition, even with no FFS other than a nose job and eyebrow lift. But after I was done, I was encouraged by my therapists to go stealthy. Maybe your friend was doing the same.

    Stealth is not as easy now with all the computerized searches. You'll never be able to put the past entirely behind you either as we all have things like NHS numbers, Passorts, Social Security and a host of other records like credit records. You can't out run those. But I believe you CAN be stealthy still.

  8. Going stealthy is her choice and if that's what she wanted then good luck to her even though I'm sad to lose her. It has obviously worked very well for you. As far as I am aware there is no advice from therapists either way these days.

    My concern is the manner in which she did it. I think she still has some issues which hiding away will not resolve.

  9. I'm sorry that you have lost a friend. I understand how that would hurt, especially the way it was done.

    Hopefully things will be OK for your friend. If she could afford private care, she can probably afford therapy as well, so help is accessible. I did only a little group work while I was transitioning. Mostly I worked with my therapist one on one.

    I met people through groups. I knew people when I was working through things. I don't know how your friend felt, but I never formed close friendships there. I don't avoid any of the people whom I met during that time. I never made any kind of announcement. I just don't see most of them.

    Things tend to change after SRS. It does seem to have happened awfully quickly with your friend.

  10. We each have to follow our own path, but I'm pretty sure she knew and still knows how much you care about her. Reading this post, it's pretty hard to miss it.

    Powerful post.

  11. Evenin' all,

    @Ariel: It's true, plenty of people change perspective post-surgery. And I'd sort of expected her to move on eventually. It's just that it's more usual to fade away than to disappear abruptly.

    I think she can afford further help should she need it. I'm afraid she will.

    @Anonymous: Thanks, I guess I channeled my feelings into my keyboard. A Prodigal Daughter parallel isn't quite apt for this situation but I know if she returns I'll be reaching for the metaphorical fatted calves.

  12. Never easy dealing with the loss when a friendship ends.