The really big myths about those of us who got SRS in the late 1960s early 1970s include the canards about how one had to be an ultra beautiful fembot who totally embraced the heterosexual feminine mystique.
You had to go completely stealth. That the doctors required you to do this or otherwise they wouldn’t give you SRS. Etc, Etc..
The problem is that 90% of the stuff about the doctors mandating this or telling us what we had to do is bullshit.
Our ideas of what it meant to be a woman reflected the idea of the time. Those who came out in the 50s were more likely to embrace the idea of the “feminine mystique” even if they didn’t live it than were those who came out in the late 1960s or 70s.
But no matter, when someone comes out they can rest assured of one thing… They will always find a bunch of judgmental sisters, who will tell them they have to this, that and another thing or else they won’t be “real”. This is something that went on 25 years before the internet became ubiquitous and is still going on. Indeed there are whole websites and blogs by people ready to declare their way is the only way and anyone who isn’t their identical clone isn’t real, is transgender identified or best of all, “a man in a dress”.
If you read Dr. Benjamin’s book you learn that some transsexuals were married to women prior to transition. Indeed in 1952-53 when the only public transsexuals were Christine Jorgensen and Roberta Cowell… One had been married to a woman and one had not. Both had been in the military during WW II. Further, upon a recent rereading of Roberta Cowell’s book I discovered her bitchy sniping at Christine Jorgensen. About how Christine wasn’t really the same as her and how Christine was a “man in a dress”.
I swear… Is the compulsion to attack other women with transsexualism genetic or what?
I was a left wing hippie living in Berkeley. I was the darling of all the doctors from those at the Center for Special Problems and Dr. Benjamin to the Doctors trying to help with the test case that would have gotten government funding for SRS if Nixon hadn’t come to power. Add in the Doctors at Stanford. One and all they told me how I was such a perfect candidate, such an ordinary bright hippie girl from Berkeley. Shit… When I was working at the office, sisters would come in and assume I was a Berkeley or SF State co-ed working as a counselor for degree credit.
Yet so many sisters felt compelled to make me over once they found out I was one of them.
Suddenly I wasn’t feminine enough; suddenly my life goals and aspirations weren’t feminine enough. I should screw up the relationship I had with my boyfriend because he wasn’t rich and was a scruffy hippie.
I had nice boobs. Not huge but enough. I was pressured to get implants, not by the doctors but rather by my peers.
I honestly thought many of my friends were drag queenish and too feminine. Kind of air heads with their fashion obsessions and lack of politics. But I noticed even some of the gay men who thought my friends were fabulous, treated me as though I was smarter. I was seriously interested in art and photography and several gay men told me books I should read and exhibits I should go to. One even went with me to a couple of shows and told me about the artist and his techniques.
Then I met other sisters both, TS and TG who had interests beyond the light camp of fashion. We are the side rarely seen and yet we exist and always have.
I was a model but I liked being behind the camera much better than being in front of it. While I loved certain models and actress I was inspired by women who were writers, photographers and activists.
I wanted a career not a marriage. I cared more about women and feminism than about femininity. The thing about my being cute/pretty was that it wasn’t contrived but was instead effortless.
When I came out as lesbian I was suddenly everyone’s “lesbian experience”. But I it wasn’t doctors who acted surprised, indeed, Dr. Laub told me that he wasn’t surprised because of the care I showed for my sisters and because I was serious minded rather than ultra feminine. No, the people who gave me shit were my sisters.
They were the ones who asked in a bitchy tone, “Does this mean you are going to go back to being a guy.” It wasn’t the feminists who gave me a hard time, it was other WBTs.
What causes the bitchiness, the constant denigration of each other that is so common? I doubt it is genetic. I strongly suspect it grows out of all those years of being “the only one”. After all if you grow up thinking you are the only one and as an adult you find that being TS or TG doesn’t make you special but rather makes you part of a class of people some of whom are much prettier or smarter than you… Then sniping at them and trying to cut them down by calling names or undermining their sense of self worth and realness is a way to feel superior.
Calling others, who have the same history of TS or TG you have, names is a way of getting back to being special. If others are like you and together you are part of a class that is despised and discriminated against then telling others they are not real while you are is a way of deluding yourself into believing you are superior to the people of that class.
It is a strategy doomed to failure because it will cause you to be seen as someone whose main accomplishment in life consists of having a reputation of pointing fingers and calling names. This may look great on the resume if you want to be a right wing pundit or politician. Unfortunately being a member of the class that those folks have picked to scapegoat generally precludes that one.
Another manifestation of this behavior can be found in the nit picking and parsing every single word someone says or writes for deviation from some imaginary standard of “Classic Transsexual” or “real woman”. This demands that we all be clones and that we all use the exact same words to describe what we felt as children or what we feel now.
It wasn’t the doctors who demanded this rigid adherence to a standard narrative. It was other sisters who coached us and scared us regarding our narratives. I told people to be honest but not volunteer lurid details when simply wording things differently would be equally honest.
By the late 1970s the idea that there was a particular cut and dry narrative should have disappeared since there was a substantial number of biographies out. It seems rather anachronistic to continue to insist that one is realer than someone else because: A. You are heterosexual and they are lesbian. B. They are a software engineer and you are a hair dresser. C. They wear sneakers and jeans and you wear Jimmy Choos, dresses and full make-up when ever you leave the house.
WBTs come in all shapes and sizes, have all sorts of different narratives, careers, sexualities, politics and aspirations. WBTs are as varied in all aspects of their being as women who were AFAB (assigned female at birth).
The petty sniping doesn’t make you real. It just makes you appear insecure. Calling people who are sort of obvious CDs or drag queens or even people with either transsexualism or transgenderism “men in dresses” doesn’t make you real. It just makes you come off as an insecure and mean.