Sunday, 4 March 2012

Fashionable diagnosis

    You can pick your friends, so the saying goes, but not your family.

    I have two elder sisters. Both have at times been wonderful, but at other times can be extremely pig-headed, opinionated, and annoying as hell. The eldest I've been out to for ages, in fact I went shopping with her in Manchester when I met her at Sparkle last year. My other sister has been estranged for a decade, it's a long story but some very welcome family reconciliation is under way.
    Elder sis decided now was the time to tell middle sis about me. I asked her not to because I wanted to pick my time to tell all. In practice that was going to be in the summer sometime, middle sis's youngsters are coming to stay with our parents for a while. My protestations were not accepted, and despite my getting rather annoyed and suggesting that our relationship would be inevitably compromised by such a going against my wishes, she insisted she was going to do it anyway when she visited middle sis at Easter.
    So I did the only thing I could, I asked my mother to tell middle sis on my terms, as she has an open communication channel and I don't. My mother wrote a very well-crafted email, and off it went.
    Earlier today my mother read middle sis's reply to me. Better than expected, she came across as understanding rather than hostile. A paragraph about how surprising it was because I was such a boy when I was younger. I guess the idea of my trying to conform to expectations hadn't occurred to her, 'cos I sure as hell didn't really want to be a boy at the time.
    As expected though, something upsetting. Middle sis is something of a Daily Mail reader. Really, at one time she even had it delivered. So the line in which she questioned the diagnosis was not entirely unexpected. But I found the wording she used to be slightly upsetting, questioning whether a second opinion had been sought for such a "fashionable diagnosis".
    Sigh. I am not blaming my sister for this, I'm sure she'll take on board my explanation of the reality. That a GD diagnosis is not easy to get, you have to convince not one but three psychiatrists, one locally and two at the GIC, and the diagnosis process happens over at least a year for NHS patients. And that far from being fashionable, it's one of the most deeply unfashionable branches of NHS medicine. She's not stupid, even though at times I have despaired at her actions.
    What I find upsetting is that a lifetime of veering to the right of the political spectrum and consuming the media from that quadrant has conditioned her to believe that when her brother comes to her with a medical condition that is life-changing in every way possible, she should question whether it is the fad of a bunch of fashionable trendy quacks.
     Her politics are not the issue though. Both dangerous idiots and good people come equally from left, right, and centre of the political spectrum. Believing what she reads in the papers isn't really her fault and isn't the issue either. I guess my annoyance as always comes down to the awful quality of the information presented through those channels. If you want a small example of how the drip,drip,drip of transphobic stories in the media affect real trans people, here's mine.
    It could have been a lot worse. I can work with that, explain it to her a bit better. If she'd gone off the deep end things would have been a lot messier and my mother would have been rather upset, as it is there's hope. My relations with elder sis have grown decidedly frostier, but it looks as though this might have broken some ice with middle sis, which can only be a good thing.
    There's something. A lot of coming out stories end with an ostracism, it might just work out that I get a reconciliation from this one. Which I'd say could be a result, wouldn't you?


  1. The media is guilty of criminal incitement!

    It does make you wonder about governments which allow such untruths to be published as facts turning a whole swathe of society against another. Not very civilised.

  2. Glad it looks like thing are looking positive for you and your sister babe xoxoxox

  3. yep, result. It should be surprising that people so readily believe what they read, but then I used to do that too, until I found a severe disjunct between what I read and what I knew...

  4. Well I hope the relationships with all of your sisters improves. I too wonder why the press get away with printing such rubbish. Let's hope something comes out of the Leveson Inquiry. Maybe you should point your sisters to our blogs if they want first-hand knowledge Jenny.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  5. Morning all,
    I hope it works out with middle sis. I'm afraid it's going to be a bit difficult though, she's prickly at the best of times. Shame, we used to be rather close.

  6. Yes, this "fashionable diagnosis" comment is so typical of the cynical negativity that pervades the UK. It's like a permanent curled lip towards everything - the all purpose sneer - "I'm too street-wise to be taken in by this diagnosis" etc etc. As if you'd risk your marriage, family, friends, career on a fashionable whim.
    It would have taken just a little more effort to have been positive, to have been supportive, to have said "How courageous of you! How can I help?"
    I was part way down this route - I had 4 months of hormones - before deciding what I stood to lose was worth more than what I stood to gain. Not such an easy decision as I make it sound. Every day & night I'm plagued with thoughts of femininity but I owe so much to my wife. We're all different though. Yours is one of the very few blogs I follow. Hope it works out for you whatever you decide.

  7. It's amazing isn't it, how everyone's an expert in gender dysphoria all of a sudden when they find out.

    I'm not sure I could go back, if I started. Not least because the NHS require a social transition which would be difficult to reverse.

  8. The media's current fascination with gender dysphoria is not dissimilar to the 'shock horror' stories about homosexuality two or three decades ago. These days, those who try to discriminate on grounds of sexuality not only find themselves on the wrong side of the law, but also on the wrong side of public opinion. eg - the case of the Cornish hotelier who denied a double room to a couple because they were homosexual.

    This gives me heart. Despite the misinformed rantings of certain Daily Mail reporters, public opinion is changing and I hear a lot of sympathy for those featured in Transsexual Summer, My Dad's a Woman, etc.

    Sadly, there will always be homophobic individuals who vent their feelings with abuse and violence. But they probably also hate everyone of a different skin colour and those who don't support their football team.

  9. Jenny, I have always maintained that no one can truly understand "trans" other than another "trans". Really, it is difficult to wrap one's head around, I suspect. The fact that your middle sis (I assume that you are the younger sis) is sort of getting it is indeed reason to celebrate. Not sure why elder sis had to do the telling herself, but so be it. I'm sure her ruffled feathers will straighten out in time.

    God love your mum, however. What a lovely woman she is to embrace you as she has.

    Calie xxx

  10. It's true, we're moving on. Sometimes despite ourselves :)

    Yes, there is a tendency for people to re-interpret it in their own frame of reference. Time will tell whether my sister succumbs to her more negative instincts.