Some time ago, I wrote on this blog that there were things going on that I couldn't tell you about. But now, at last, I think I should.
I asked Olli to write something for my blog and this is what Olli has written.OLLI WRITES:
Longtime readers will have noticed that my mother used to mention her only child, a daughter called Emily. This daughter then mysteriously disappeared, and was replaced by another only child called Olli, one, judging by my mum's lack of pronoun use, of indeterminate sex. I have been asked to write a short explanation for her to post, enabling her to use the correct name and to avoid the convoluted, pronoun-free sentences.
This will be very old news to some people reading here, if you know my mum in Real Life, but bear with us – the rest of the Internet doesn't.
This time last year, I changed my name to Oliver, as I'm a female-to-male transsexual man. That will mean a variety of things to some of you, and nothing to others, which is problematic – as the concept is difficult to explain to the majority of people who aren't in a similar situation. Simply, I'm a great deal happier living as male – seeing myself as male and being seen as male – than I was when I attempted to live as female.
Of course, a cynic might say, it's much nicer to be seen as male full stop, what with the better pay and lack of sexual harrassment and all. But that's not it; there are plenty of male-to-female transsexual women about, who have given up all those privileges in order to be true to themselves in a similar way.
The minimal amount of research conducted on transsexuality suggests it's inborn, forming while the individual is still in the womb (which is why headlines like “World's youngest transsexual” are frustratingly inaccurate). But that doesn't matter, particularly – either you're trans (I will use the abbreviation from here on, as it encompasses everyone whose sense of self is strikingly different than one would expect, considering the sex they were assigned at birth, and not just those who wish to change their physical sex characteristics) or you're not.
If you're not trans (i.e. when you were born, a doctor pronounced you to be male or female, and you agree with them) you're cissexual or cis.
Incidentally, I'm talking about physical sex here in terms of a decision, rather than simple fact, because sex is far more complicated than one might expect. Hormones, reproductive organs, chromosomes, and brain sex all come together to make the sex of a body, and in a great many cases not all “match” to produce a body that's definitively male or female. This is why (oh morons who are making that ginormous fuss about Caster Semenya) a sensible person accepts someone's assessment of their own sex and gender, rather than “well, this transsexual person's taken some hormones, so their skin and muscle is three-fifths female, their mind is female, their neural map is female, their genitals are nine-tenths male...” or any similar pointless and intrusive rubbish.
Therefore, I'm male. I'm “Oliver” to strangers, “Olli” to friends, “he” “him” and “his”. Anyone who persists in calling me “she” etc. is communicating effectively that they don't care that I have a personality or sense of self, and that they consider me nothing more than a perambulatory life-support system for my vagina. Forgive me if I thus no longer bother with them. If someone uses female pronouns by accident, an apology is appropriate (of course, these rules apply the other way round if someone assigned male is living as female).
Now, I'm not the most stereotypical, red-blooded heterosexual male – I don't spend all my time playing sports and chasing women (indeed, as you'll know, my husband Gareth is also male). My interests are very gender-neutral, so it's not a matter of “I like fast cars and explosions so I must be a dude!” it's entirely about my body and voice, and the body and voice I should have.
About that husband. My coming-out process was more uneventful than most, primarily because I haven't had to cope with the rejection of a lesbian or straight male partner, which is obviously common “You're a man? But I don't... like men...” and, of course, said partner hasn't had to cope with that feeling of loss. Gareth was proudly out as bisexual a long time before I broke the news, and his reaction was entirely supportive, especially after meeting other transsexual men. He's been really helpful throughout the past year – thanks, Gareth http://www.thanksants.com/ (Thareth). Another person who's really gone out of their way to be very awesome is Joanne, a friend from uni who might be reading here (Thoanne!).
In the next couple of months, I will hopefully start testosterone therapy, which will redistribute my fat and break my voice, fixing some of the major problems I have with my body. Alternately, it will just give me some awful side effects, and I'll have to stop taking it – it's obviously powerful stuff, and it's hard to predict how an individual system will react. It'll also make me infertile, so Gareth and I are hoping to use a surrogate to make kids in the future; call me a cynic if you will, but I can't imagine the adoption process being full of delights for same-sex couples that include transsexual men.
So... yes. Any questions? Sensible questions, I mean. (Because trans topics on the Internet tend to attract EVERY VERBOSE MORONIC TWUNT IN THE WORLD, I suggested that any offensive comments ought to be deleted. My mum reckons they should be left up, and soundly mocked, so that is what shall be).
Daphne writing again: I will be happy to answer any questions, of course. And actually, I think those who read this blog aren't likely to leave offensive comments.
But just to pre-empt some questions that you may want to ask:
I didn't want to keep using the name "Olli" with no explanation (Yorkshire Pudding
asked me about it a while ago but I couldn't give a full answer then - apologies!) But I couldn't explain anything until Olli was clear what was happening, and that took a while.
Just to add a bit of explanation - - and Olli, I hope you won't mind this - - Olli is twenty, and just about to start his third year at York University studying Archaeology. When known as Emily he always appeared to be a completely normal, tall, slim girl so we didn't see this coming at all, in any way. The only unusual thing about Olli when Olli was known as Emily was the exam results, which were always superb to the point of being rather scary (how often does someone get 100% in English Literature A-level, for example?)
Am I finding all this difficult? Oh, yes. I'd guess that all parents of transsexuals find it hard. Some huge percentage - - maybe fifty per cent - lose all contact with their children. Olli, of course, is just the same person that Emily was - - but, for nearly twenty years, I thought I had a daughter, and it's hard to adjust to having a son instead, particularly since Olli's my only child (I did have a previous baby, a boy, who died aged three weeks in 1984).
Do I love Olli as much as I loved Emily? Oh, yes, of course. And I'm delighted to see Olli so much happier than Emily was. Will I lose contact? No, I jolly well won't: not with Olli and not with his lovely husband Gareth (they are legally married - they got married in February 2008).
Because being transgender is not a lifestyle choice, that's the thing to remember. It makes your life SO much more difficult that nobody would choose it if they didn't have to.
If you leave any questions in the comments we'll be happy to answer them as well as we can. Or you can email me at email@example.com . From now on, I'll be referring to "Olli" using the pronoun "he".