Thoughts on the difference between CDs and TSs

I feel it’s important to start this entry by asserting firmly that I am not opening a potential can of worms merely as a cheap trick to stir the pot and generate a spike in readership of my blog.

(Also, let me state, up front, that I will refer exclusively to MtF TSs and CDs in this entry for simplicity’s sake. I am definitely not qualified to comment on parallel FtM issues.)

What I want to do is to share some new thoughts on an ongoing issue in the TG Community which has tended to divide rather than unite it.

I read an article/interview with high-profile TG playwrite and performer Nina Arsenault in the Saturday, June 12, 2010 Toronto Star. It was the front-page story in the Weekend Living section with a big headline and photo above the fold. You can’t miss her. Just look for the big-eyed girl who you’d swear was 60’s pop icon Lulu, circa To Sir With Love.

In his article, reporter Jim Rankin prefers to concentrate on Arsenault’s ongoing quest to explore her physical transformation from male to female in the context of artistic expression. Her controversial play, The Silicone Diaries — which chronicles her transformation through the more than 60 cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries she has undergone since 1999 — will appear on Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa stages this coming fall.

I, on the other hand, found a different point of interest in Arsenault’s responses to some of Rankin’s questions, the ones that focused specifically on motivation and self identity. That facet of the interview came to a head (pardon the imminent pun) when Rankin asked, “Do you think you’re going to keep your penis?”

“I have transsexual girlfriends and some of them think of that part of themselves like a tumour,” Arsenault muses. “I believe I am a woman inside; there’s no doubt about that. … It’s more important to be socially accepted as a woman and look like a woman.”

Flash back to a ‘girls’ weekend’ at a TG friend’s summer cottage a few years ago.

Sitting at the breakfast table on Monday morning, when all but the hostess and three guests had headed for home, the question of ‘going all the way’ suddenly arose amid the usual casual TG conversational haze, focused on clothing, make up and ‘passing’ issues.

“I’d never do it,” one of the veteran CDs said, without hesitation. “I’ve got way too much to lose. Family, friends, career. I need to let the pressure off regularly but I can’t imagine coming out to anyone, let alone living en femme full-time. Besides, I like my c**k too much.”

“I need to get out dressed as much as possible but I could never go public,” said another CD.

“I try to get out as much as possible, at home or on the road. I have a strong ‘push’ to express my female side,” said the hostess, a middle-aged divorcee who travels extensively on business. She describes her gender self-identity as 40 per cent male and 60 per cent female. “I’m out to my family, even if it did mean breaking with my ex. My kids are grown and they accept both sides of me. I’m out to most of my friends. But I still have to be careful that I don’t get outed at work. That’s too much of a risk.”

The fourth diner at that table was, of course, your faithful reporter. I was the only one there who was definitely TS, and surgery-bound.

Having been silent through the foregoing discussion, I asked the hostess, “If work wasn’t an issue, would you go all the way?”

She thought for a moment and then replied, “I don’t think so. I get uncomfortable after a while. It’s stressful, in its own way, being dressed. Three or four days at a time is about my limit. Then, I have get back to a safe place.”

“What about the stress of not being able to dress, not being able to let the pressure off?” I countered.

“It’s a delicate balance,” she said, quietly. “There are mornings when I wake up and look in the mirror and think, ‘If a surgeon with a scalpel in his hand knocked on my door right now, I’d say, do it!’ ”

For me, and other TSs I have met, there is no doubt, no equivocation. We echo Nina Arsenault when she asserts, “I believe I am a woman inside; there’s no doubt about that.”

For CDs, the eternal goal seems to be to ‘pass’ better, to create a more-perfect female illusion. To let loose now and then and celebrate one’s suppressed femininity. But CDs always go back to that ‘safe place’.

For TSs, the overriding goal is to be accepted in mainstream society as the women we have always been inside. Living openly and freely as women is our ‘safe place’. And we’re willing to risk literally everything to get there, regardless of the consequences.

So, when a TS reaches the point in her transition when she is living comfortably full-time, she reaches a natural point of departure from the CD sub-Community. CDs will always need the mutual support, privacy and sisterhood that traditional TG support groups provide. Most TSs continue to transition and eventually become integrated into mainstream society. Many of us wish only to blend in and leave our old, unsuccessful, unsustainable lives behind.

As a result, TSs may be castigated by non-TS TGs as deserters from the Community, traitors to the cause. This misunderstanding often goes further, resulting in charges from non-TSs that we must think we’re better than they are, somehow; that we have somehow risen above them. In fact, we see ourselves not as ‘above’ or ‘better’, just different.

We are also criticised by non-TSs and vocal TS activists for not being ‘out’ enough and not doing enough to champion TG rights. The truth is, when we have fully integrated ourselves into mainstream society, many of us no longer feel ‘trans’ and no longer have the same stake that the activists and the perpetual CDs have in achieving TG rights and acceptance.

Some critics even say we have ‘crossed the floor and joined the opposition’. And the non-TS and activist elements of the TG Community may never be able to forgive us for that.

That’s too bad.

Better mutual understanding between TSs and the non-TS sub-Community (not to mention between mainstream TSs and out, activist TSs) might just result in a larger, stronger TG community, and that would be a great benefit to us all.

(Repost, from a private blog.)

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