When the New York Times announced in November 1966 that Johns Hopkins was doing the operation it made the whole thing a lot more real for me than it had been when I ahd read April Ashley’s account of getting SRS in Casablanca.
Five years later I was in the Stanford program and was co-running the NTCU. We were in SF and the majority of people we were counseling were under 30. We mainly liked guys. But some of us liked women.
When we went to the group at Stanford we met those coming out in middle age and while some liked men most had been involved with women and had often fathered children.
Jan Maxwell and I discussed this and we postulated that with SRS becoming widely available along with the climate of greater sexual freedom those coming out in middle age would instead all start coming out younger.
We wrongly though that the ability to get the operation was the determining factor.
10, 20, 30 years later and I’m a respected pioneer and groups will at least buy me dinner to speak/visit their group. What do I see but the same exact mix of young emergers vs middle aged.
Now I think all the psychopathologicalization is one steaming pile of bullshit. 99.99% of it flunks the Occam’s razor test.
But being an autodidact/otaku with access to a computer starting in 1996 I started being an obnoxious bitch and probing for some answers.
I listened to what people had to say and then I asked , “Why, how come?”
Now the first answer and the most easily dismissible was, “There wasn’t any information.”
Now as an autodidact I searched every single fragment of possible information and any information that could have even the vaguest connection.
I wasn’t the only one as most WBT memoirs describe doing the exact same thing.
Then on Trans-theory I met someone who was my virtual demographic identical twin. We were both from small towns, were the same age and lived around the corner from each other in the Haight Ashbury.
The more I dug at her and the more I pissed her off the more I started to see the role fear played.
I had formed self awareness and knowledge of being transsexual as a result of physical obviousness and getting caught dressing up. Getting busted resulted in being labeled.
I tried to hide the stigma (Erving Goffman has a good book called “Stigma”) without much success. But it didn’t take all that much effort to imagine that if I had not been caught, labeled and too obvious to hide it I might have given into the fear of stigmatization and done almost anything to hide it.
After all the socialization of transkids generally includes bullying, parental abuse and often medical abuse aimed at masculinizing us.
Forget the mailitary careerists. That is building a mask so thick I’m amazed any ever are able to break out.
I wanted to become a history teacher. I was told I would never be allowed to teach because I was too obvious.
Then in 1968 at a point when I was just about ready to come out I met a girl from Canada whose husband had run off and left her stranded in Sproul Plaza, Berkeley. She approached me assuming I was gay and safe. I brought her back to my collective in San Francisco and we spent about 10 days together. We cuddled, slept together, dropped acid and made love. I could function as a male while on acid. I really liked her.
Suppose we were together just a little longer and I made her preganant. Abortion was illegal in 1968 and hard to obtain. I could empathize with someone marrying under these circumstances and becoming a responsible parent as many of us would like to be.
Over the years many of my friends from those days at the NTCU have passed away. Many of us have had a sketchy history of health care access in the US and tend to fall in the uninsured. Although considering how health care in the US generally ranks around 40th on most indices world wide maybe our access is par for the course.
But over the years of reading memoirs and listening to friend who have come out in middle age I have heard stories of early childhood awareness that all have similar elements.
So much so that I feel I can say that the differences between those who come out young and those who come out in middle age are more a matter of what happens in the years between say 15 and 25 than they are of any primal root factor.