I sat bolt upright in bed. Saturday morning sunlight crept in around the drawn curtains. I was lost in thought. An idea had been building in my mind, and as I lay in bed it crystallized until I blurted out loud, ‘That’s it, I must be transsexual!’
The idea felt blindingly obvious. I felt certain and exhilarated. I was in my early 30s, in my treasured council flat in Kilburn and in an ‘on/off’ relationship. Carol lay in bed beside me, trying to pull the duvet back down. She said, ‘Don’t be ridiculous! Of course, you’re not!’ She rolled over on her side and tried to go back to sleep.
The night before, we’d had sex with most of our clothes on. I much preferred it that way, as it enabled me to deny my female body. I had turned my head and seen her bright purple varnished nails grasping my shoulders; it was so erotic, I was obviously with a heterosexual woman, at least in my fantasy. Carol had short blonde hair and dressed in a conventionally feminine way with delicate scarves, broaches and flowing skirts but like most of my previous partners, considered herself a lesbian.
It dawned on me that I had never allowed myself to think properly about how I felt about the uncomfortable truth that I didn’t have what I yearned for – a man’s body. I couldn’t come without fantasising about having male genitals and I simply felt disconnected from the body I had been dealt. I tried other fantasies of being a woman desperately and I tried to be in the present but I always reverted to be being male, every single time.
I found it very difficult to enjoy being touched, which meant sex was often one-sided, with me giving pleasure. With Carol, I fantasised that I was the eager young man seducing an older yet inexperienced woman.
I had been confused on hearing that many butch, masculine-appearing lesbians were comfortable having a female body, didn’t behave butch in bed and even liked to be penetrated. Conversely with me, although I didn’t appear that butch, my body was clearly guarded, with several ‘out of bounds’ signs.
Sometimes lovers told me that I had nice breasts, which I could just about cope with but if anyone touched them I reacted badly. Once I forcefully pushed my partner away in anger and another time it happened, I threw a plate against the wall. I usually wore T-shirts in bed to cover them up or I’d lie on my front, enabling me to feel I was a man.
My desire to have male genitalia overwhelmed me to the point that I even watched gay men’s porn so that I could focus on masculine sexuality rather than being forced to remember that I had a female body. But I never felt attracted to men.
On this morning, I tried to ignore Carol’s dismissal. Absorbed in thoughts that my body should have been male, that in fact I was male, I got out of bed, took off my t-shirt and underwear and walked over to the full-length mirror and looked at myself completely naked.
In a new light, I saw more clearly than usual. I saw a woman’s body with my male head on it, objectively a reasonable female body but looking completely incongruous with my head. I flexed my biceps, which made me feel slightly better. I didn’t have a bad set of muscles and at least I had been blessed with broad shoulders.
Thoughts crowded into my head. How could I desire a male body? I’m a feminist. Changing into a man is utterly unacceptable. I have a healthy body, why seek medical intervention to change it? Was I prepared to be seen as a man in everyday life? It just felt too much to even contemplate.
Indeed, it was too much. I decided I would just cope the best I could. I bottled up my feelings and suppressed my yearning to be male. I didn’t mention the subject again to Carol.