I had been out of sorts for a while. I was smitten with some vague uneasiness that I felt hard to place. Even my wife noticed it.
“You seem depressed,” she said. “What is wrong with you?”
“I don’t know,” I responded. “I feel strangely dissolute.”
“Typical male,” she replied. “Suffer in silence and won’t go to the doctor.”
I just shook my head. I didn’t want to go to the Doctor again. She would only try to send me off to do endless expensive tests and lecture me that I drink too much.” So I tried to put aside my unease and went back to reading the newspaper.
Well my wife and I had been out for a long walk that morning and I found it difficult to keep my eyes open. Before I nodded off I was attempting to read an article on gender dysphoria and how many of our youth were seduced into believing that somehow they had been born into the wrong gender body.
After a comforting fifteen minute nap I awoke. And then it suddenly occurred to me. Maybe that was my problem! Perhaps I was really a female who had unfortunately been assigned a male bpdy.
When I thought about it, I had always had some distinctive female traits. I loved flowers. I was always more disposed to talk about my latest rose acquisition than who won the footy. What’s more I love chocolate. And heavens know I was always determined to have the last say when involved in an argument!
So perhaps I was a woman trapped in a man’s body.
It was then that I resolved to transition to being a woman.
It took my wife some time to realise. Finally one day she asked me “Why are you spending so much time wearing your track suit pants?”
I replied matter-of-factly, “Well, I am practising being a woman.”
She looked at me with that same exasperated look she gives when I do something stupid. “What on earth do you mean?”
“It has come to me recently that I have always been confused about my gender, I now want to be a woman,”
“Well you didn’t seem to be too confused when you fathered our three children! So how does wearing track suit pants help your transition?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” I replied. “Women have to take their pants down to urinate. When I wear my track suit pants I have to do the same thing. So I’ve started practicing being a woman,”
Well, she just groaned in a painful but resigned way and moved on.
Later on I was standing in front of the toilet bowl in the ensuite when she came in to wash her hands and remarked, ”You’re doing that wrong,”
“What do you mean?”
“Well I am sure you know that women sit on the toilet to pee. You’ve seen me do it a thousand times.”
“Oh yes,” I replied, “I am glad you reminded me.”
So then I began not only to take my pants down but I also sat on the toilet seat to urinate. Well this had one advantage at least; I didn’t have to take the trouble to aim! I thought I was getting the hang of being a woman now.
After a while I said to my wife, “You know that since I’ve retired I’ve been doing the cooking. Well now I have become a woman I’ve decided I can’t be a stereotypical woman occupying the kitchen. I want to be a strong, independent woman. So I won’t be doing any cooking from now on,”
“I see,” she replied a little truculently. “I hope you don’t think I’m going to cook.”
“No, of course not! We can get by with boiled eggs and some toast and vegemite. And we can order in some premade meals occasionally.”
The next day I grabbed the car keys and headed out the door. My wife called out, “Where are you going?”
“I’m off to the court house to get the sex on my birth certificate changed.” She muttered something under her breath that I didn’t quite get, but I am sure “lunatic” formed part of her utterance.
I duly applied for a change in my birth certificate which seemed to greatly amuse the fellow at the court house. Even though I kept my cool I couldn’t help concluding he was a reactionary redneck who probably voted for One Nation or the Katter Party!
“You should get your new birth certificate within a fortnight, Madam,” he laughed.
By now I was seething. When I got home I did a Google search and found that there was a government funded transgender support group in my own suburb,. I resolved to go there as soon as possible. I rang to make an appointment. My call was answered by someone called Simone and we agreed on a time for a meeting.
Several days later I entered the office of the transgender support group. As soon as I got in the door a big booming voice greeted me.
“Hi sister, I’m Simone,” it said. “What can I do for you?”
There sitting behind the desk was a large body which was quite hirsute. I am reluctant to say it, but before my epiphany I would have said it was a man. But surprisingly Simone was dressed in a long grey skirt with a floral top.
But she sensed my apprehension and in a soothing voice declared,”I am a woman too, you know. It is not our biology that determines our gender but how we choose to think about ourselves,”
I was reassured by this. “Pleased to meet you, Simone. I am Ted.”
“No, that can’t be right. Ted is a male name. Now that you are transitioning you will need a female name. How about Edwina or Edna?”
I thought a moment before responding. “I think I’ll go with Edna. That was my mother’s name. I am sure she would like my being named after her.”
“And what’s more,” Simone continued, “If you want to do this properly you need to wear feminine clothes.”
“OK,” I said reluctantly, “I’ll try that. Is there anything else I should do?”
“Yes of course. If you are really going to transition, you should protest.”
“Protest? Why should I protest?”
This seemed to raise some considerable ire in Simone. She responded loudly and forthrightly. “Because we are discriminated against. What’s the point of transitioning without proclaiming your victimhood in the face of an injust society? When you transition you join a battalion of folk who are tired of being discriminated against by a paternalistic, intolerant society. When you transition it is not just for the selfish purpose of feeling good about yourself, it is to strike a blow against the conventional wisdom that prevails. We will not, sister, allow them to pigeonhole us into convenient gender stereotypes. We will be whatever we choose to be and to hell with the establishment!”
I must confess I felt somewhat inspired by this tirade. It seemed as though I was joining a noble cause. “Wow,” I said. “I didn’t realise this stuff was so important, I will join you in a protest if I can,”
“Just give me your e-mail address,” said Simone, “and I will let you know when we are going to protest again.”
She offered me a piece of paper and a pen and I duly scribbled my e-mail address for her.
“Now,” she said, “we need to talk about pronouns.”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you know? Sometimes you give me the impression that you are not really ready to be a transgender woman. When you adopt a transgender identity, particularly if you choose to be non-binary, you become a special class of person. To affirm that specialness you get to choose your own pronouns – how you would like to be addressed.”
“Oh that’s cool. What are your preferred pronouns?”
“I’m pretty conventional I guess. I like to be addressed as them/they.”
“That doesn’t seem right. ‘Them’ and ‘they’ are plural pronouns and unless I am mistaken there just seems to be one of you.”
This seemed to enrage Simone somewhat. “Listen Sunshine,” she retorted, “to transgender is to liberate yourself. If we are able to put aside the diktats of biological science, shoving aside the rules of grammar is no problem at all. Being transgender is empowering in so many ways.”
“How can that be so? You told me that I should protest because transgender people are oppressed and are the victims of conventional, paternalistic views about gender,”
“You really don’t understand do you? Victimhood is empowering. We get our power by leveraging off our victimhood. The last thing in the world we want is to be accepted. When society moves closer to accepting us we always strive to find another point of differentiation to give us another opportunity of leveraging our power.”
Well this tended to confuse me so I determined to go back to safer ground. “Going back to pronouns,: I enquired, ”what options do I have?”
Simone opened a drawer in her desk and pulled out a sheet of paper and handed it to me. The paper had a printed list of what seemed dozens of options. I perused the list and said, “I think I will go with Ze/hir.”
“Good choice,” responded Simone. “But take the list home with you to have a more considered decision.”
“I will. Thank you.”
When I got home, I told my wife she would have to call me Edna now and address me using my preferred pronouns.
“Don’t be silly,” she replied. “I am going to keep calling you Ted. If not that, it will be Blockhead. Can you imagine if I tell people I am living with Edna they will presume I am a lesbian which I definitely am not!”
“Simone was right! We transgender folk are suppressed and downtrodden. No wonder we protest.”
I grabbed the car keys again puffed up with righteous indignation.
“Where are you off to now?” my wife demanded.
“I’m off to the courthouse again to change my birth certificate to acknowledge my new name, Also I am going to buy a couple of dresses so that when I go out I can truly express my womanhood.”
“Well if you insist on wearing dresses you certainly can’t wear mine! But I warn you that I won’t be seen in public with you in women’s clothes.”
I marched out the door in high dudgeon and said under my breath, ”Bigot!”
When I got to the court house the same smart aleck clerk came to serve me.
He approached me with a supercilious grin, “And what can I do to help you today, Madam?” he said in a smarmy voice.
“I want to change my birth certificate again”
“What? Tired of being a woman already? Tired of lipstick and makeup and bra straps cutting into you?”
“No, of course not.” I hadn’t experienced any of these things yet. “I need to change my name to reflect my new femininity.”
The clerk looked at me and chuckled. My growing baldness and five o’clock shadow apparently didn’t look too feminine to him.
I remembered Simone’s words. “My gender is not defined by my biology. It is my choice and I choose to be female,” I said firmly.
Still grinning he replied, “Whatever you say, Madam.” Without further ado he helped me fill in the requisite form.
“Well Edna,” he said at last, “You should have your new birth certificate in two or three weeks.”
“Thanks for your help.” I said.
“No problem Madam’ I’ve been brought up to be helpful to women.” As I walked out the door the smirk lingered on his face.
As I walked back to the car I thought about the young man’s response. Surely in a free country I should be able to self-identify with respect to my gender. It is not much to ask, If I were free to self-identify more broadly I would probably choose to self-identify as Pat Cummins or Luciano Pavarotti or Elon Musk. It didn’t occur to me then, as it does now, that I probably had fewer attributes in common with women then I did with these prestigious men. Although these men had talents way beyond mine, we had some biologically determined similarities that I would never share with biological women.
But no matter. I was determined to press ahead with my transgender project.
When I got home my long-suffering wife said, “Well you’ve gone through some processes that might superficially satisfy you that you are some sort of dubious woman. What now?”
‘Well I suppose, as I told you earlier, it is time I dressed like a woman,”
“I thought it might come to this, But let me warn you I won’t tolerate your wearing any of my clothes.”
“Very well,” I said, “then I will go out and buy my own.”
So off I went to the dress shop.
Even I thought at the beginning I looked out of place in the dress shop. There were four or five other customers there and they all looked decidedly more feminine than I did.
A shop assistant approached me (seemingly with some trepidation) and said , “How can I help you sir?”
“Excuse me,”I said, “I am not a “sir”, I am a “madam” and my name is Edna.”
She was taken aback by this but soon recovered and helped me find a couple of dresses that sort of fitted.
The next day I got dressed in one of my newly acquired outfits.
“You look ridiculous!” exclaimed my wife.”
“No matter,” I replied. “I am appropriately dressed for what I need to do now.”
“And what, pray I ask, is that?”
“I am going to take up sport again.”
Now I had never really been a sporting type of person, but in my youth I had been rather good at table tennis. So I headed off to the local women’s table tennis club. I was convinced I could show these women a thing or two about playing table tennis.
I entered the clubhouse wearing one of my new dresses and went up to the reception desk where a middle-aged woman was doing some paper work.
“Good morning,” I addressed her, “I wonder if you might be able to help me?”
She looked up and seemed in some dismay at my appearance,
“I’ll do my best. How can I help you?”
“Well,” I responded, “My name is Edna and I would like to join your table tennis club.”
She looked me up and down before responding. Eventually she said. “Well my name is Shirley. You do understand this is a women’s club and you don’t, if you excuse my saying so, look like a woman to me,”
“Well, I am a woman and I have birth certificate to prove it.” I threw my birth certificate on the desk for her to peruse. She took a minute or two to read it.
After that she sat silently thinking for a few moments and said to me, ”Wait a minute while I check this with the club president.”
She called out, ”Daphne, do you have a minute?”
A voice from a nearby office called back,”Sure, Shirl. What do you want?”
A rather demure little woman emerged from the office. “What’s the problem?”
“Well this bloke, who says his name is ‘Edna’ wants to become a member. He’s got a birth certificate that alleges he is female.”
:Let me see.”
Shirley handed the paper to Daphne. “Well, I suspect legally he’s got us. But he looks pretty harmless to me.”
I didn’t quite know how to take that remark!
“OK then we will sign him up,” replied Shirley.
She produced the appropriate registration form which I duly completed.
“What now?” I enquired.
“Well now we will have to test you to see what division you should play in.”
“Who is going to do that?” I asked.
“Well I am,” said Shirley. “Come with me to the playing area.”
I followed her into a huge open arena where there were perhaps a dozen tables. She picked up two bats off one of the tables and offered one to me.
“Thanks,” I said as I fondled it lovingly remembering my triumphs of the past.
“Now we will play a few games,” said Shirley, “so that I can assess your skill level.”
We began to play. Very quickly we completed five games and I was completely overwhelmed in each.
“Well, that’s pretty conclusive,” she said. “We will enlist you into the beginners division.”
I hung my head in shame.
I left soon after and walked disconsolately home. Not surprisingly, I never went back again.
Some days later I went back to see Simone. I entered her office with one of my new dresses on.
“Wow, Edna,” Simone said, “You are looking good now.”
“Thank you , Simone. I am doing my best. But I am interested to know what else I can do to further my transition into womanhood.”
“ Well you could take the ultimate step, I suppose, if you are so inclined.”
“What is that?” I asked.
“Euphemistically, it is called ‘bottom surgery’.”
“So does that mean my backside doesn’t look feminine enough?”
Simone laughed, “No, that’s not the point of bottom surgery’. It is designed to remove your genitals and then to manufacture female genitalia for you.”
I was taken aback by this suggestion. “Holy cow!” I exclaimed. “That sounds pretty drastic!”
“Well, it is the ultimate step to assert your femininity.”
“Have you done it?”
“Well that’s a very personal question to ask, but no, I haven’t done it yet, but I am giving it serious consideration.”
I guess I must have been looking perplexed as I cogitated over this.
Simone opened a drawer on her desk and pulled out a card and handed it to me. “Here.” she said. “If you want to learn more, these are the contact details of a surgeon that performs such surgery that we are linked to. If you want to learn more, go and have a chat to him. If you tell him you were referred to him by us, there will be no charge. Or if you prefer, I will ring him and make an appointment for you.”
“OK, do that if you don’t mind.”
“No problem,” said Simone. “I will e-mail you the appointment when it’s made.”
Thanks,” I replied as I walked towards the door.
When I got to my car I stopped and thought before I drove off. In reality, I knew it was most unlikely I would agree to such radical surgery. It sowed a seed of doubt in my mind. Why was I doing this? Was I just trying to humour Simone so I would be accepted into the transgender community?
Simone’s e-mail arrived the next day. I had an appointment with the surgeon in a fortnight’s time. The surgeon’s rooms were quite nearby, no more than a ten minute walk.
I was reluctant to tell my wife about my appointment. The day of the appointment was pleasantly cool and blessed with a glorious blue sky. As was her wont on such days, my wife was in the front garden tending to her beautiful flowers.
As I walked down the garden path to the front gate, I paused and said to her, ”It’s such a nice day, I think I’ll go for a walk.”
“Good idea,” she said. “It will do you good. If I wasn’t busy I’d come with you but you would need to change out of that silly dress’”
“Oh, I don’t know. It is one of my favourites,” I laughed.
A half hour later I was sitting in front of the surgeon in his office.
“Simone tells me you want to make the transition to a transgender woman.”
I couldn’t tell him I was having second thoughts. I felt somehow, illogically, I would be letting the movement down.
I cleared my throat and replied, “Yes that is true. I would like to know how I might be modified physically to aid my transition.”
The surgeon explained his procedure. I winced and shifted in my seat, This didn’t sound good. In fact it sounded excruciating!
Finally, I ventured, “This sounds very complex surgery. I guess it must be expensive?”
“Certainly,” he replied. “But of course it can also be very life enhancing.”
“Can you give me a rough estimate of the cost if I decided to go ahead?”
He duly went through the various options and the projected costs.
“That is expensive,” I exclaimed. “I’m not sure I could afford that. Perhaps you might offer a discount?”
My mind raced now to try and find some justification for a reduction in the exorbitant fees.
“Well,” I rationalised, “I am an old man and things have considerably shrivelled up downstairs.”
“What?” enquired the surgeon. “You are expecting me to give you a discount on account of the reduced size of your penis?”
I coughed and replied uncomfortably, “Well, yes. That seems a reasonable thing to do.”
The surgeon laughed sarcastically. “That’s not how it works, you silly old buggar.”
“Why not,” I asked defensively, wincing at his rude response.
“Well,” he replied, “I notice that you’re rather bald.”
“That’s true,” I said, “But there is no need to be offensive!”
“Bear with me. When you go to the barber does he give you a discount to get your hair cut?”
“No!” I said indignantly, “But he should.”
“Well you misunderstand the basic terms of trade. A haircut is a haircut. A surgical procedure is a surgical procedure. In a market economy everyone is charged the same. So that’s it. Take it or leave it. Consider my proposal and if you wish to proceed, let me know and we will schedule you for an operation.”
Unsurprisingly, I was starting to get bad feelings about the whole thing.
“Sure,” I said “Thank you for your help.”
I walked out convinced that modifying my genitals was the last thing I wanted to do.
This of course was very disconcerting. I had initially thought that transitioning would improve my state of mind, but now I was just as uneasy as I had previously been.
A week later, I got a call from Simone.
“What are you doing Friday?” she asked.
“I’ve got nothing particularly scheduled, I replied. Why do you ask?”
“Well, we’ve got a protest planned.”
“What are you protesting?”
“A rally by some TERFs.”
“TERFs? What on earth are TERFs?”
“Good heavens sister – don’t you know anything about gender politics?”
“No, I must confess – hardly anything at all.”
Simone sighed, “TERFs are trans-exclusionary radical feminists. They more or less deny our right to exist. They don’t believe that transgender women are really women. They want to exclude us from any claims of womanhood.”
“How terrible!” I exclaimed. “If they are denying my rights to identify as a woman, you can count me in regarding your protest.”
“Good girl,” exclaimed Simone. She then gave me the details of the planned protest.
“See you there,” I said before ending the call.
On the appointed day, I duly turned up to add my voice to the protest. We gathered outside a hall where the women’s rights supporters were already speaking to a moderately sized crowd. By the time that twenty or so of us had gathered Simone led us into the hall.
Simone carried a loud hailer. She led the chanting. “What do we want?” she asked us. “Transgender rights,” we shouted. “When do we want it?” She continued. “Now!” we responded loudly.
The middle aged rather diminutive women who stood at the podium remarked, “Well ladies, here come the transgender bovver boys.”
Most in the audience turned and jeered at us.
But Simone would not be silenced. “We are women too!” she shouted back.
“No you are not,” insisted the woman at podium. “You are just a bunch of blokes dressed up in skirts who want to deprive us of our women only spaces, our rest rooms, change rooms , toilets and such.”
“But we should be allowed into those places because we are women.”
“No you are not. There is not a breast capable of lactation or a vagina among the lot of you. How many of you have given birth to children?”
“That’s not an argument we will pay any credence to. Gender is not biologically determined.”
“Well when I am in a woman’s only space, it is for me. I’m not going into a change room with a big hirsute mail with his genitals all intact!”
Simone continued to argue with the woman as the crowd jeered and the protestors started to get agitated.
I looked at Simone in a way I had never looked before. Who were we kidding? Simone was a big beefy, hirsute male hiding in a dress. I certainly didn’t want him sharing women only spaces with my granddaughters! The penny finally dropped.
The atmosphere in the room has getting hostile. While everyone was so distracted, I sneaked out and hightailed it home and quickly removed my dress. As I changed into my tracksuit pants and a t-shirt my wife walked in and asked innocently, “Where have you been?”
I confessed. “I’ve been at a transgender protest.”
“How did it go?”
“It was awful. I’ll never do that again,”
“Good!” she replied and went back out in the garden to dead-head her flowers without further comment.
The next day on the TV news I saw footage of Simone being hauled away from the protest by the police. I resolved that I never wanted to see her/him, they/them or whatever, ever again.
A couple of days later I walked down to the shop to top up our supplies of vegemite and eggs. When I got back my wife said, “Ron called while you were out.”
“What did he want?” I enquired.
“He said he was planning an evening with the blokes. He said he wanted to get some of his male friends together for a few drinks and snooker. And he asked whether you would be able to attend,”
“How did you respond?”
“Well, I had to be truthful,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “ I told him that you were no longer a bloke, but a woman.”
“You told him that?”
“Well that’s what you’ve been telling me.”
“Yeah, I suppose. But I think after all that’s happened this week, I would enjoy a night out with the blokes. I enjoy their company because they are just fun to be around and they’re not judgmental. What should I do?”
“Why don’t you just ring Ron back and accept his invitation.”
“But how will I explain my attempts to be a woman.”
“I am sure you will work something out.”
So I duly rang Ron.
He picked up the phone and said, ”Ah Ted, your wife said she would get you to ring back.”
“Is that all she said,” I enquired.
“No. She said you had to go down to the shops to get some groceries. But she was confident that you would join the blokes for snooker and drinks.”
“Ah, yes. I would really enjoy that. Who else is coming?”
“Well so far Sid, Dave, Don and Larry have accepted.”
“That sounds great,” I said. “What can I bring?”
“You don’t have to bring anything. But if you feel so compelled a nice bottle of Scotch would be appreciated.”
Another couple of weeks had passed.
My wife and I sat at the table eating a wonderful meal of boeuf bourguignon.
“This is a lovely dinner, thank you darling.” My wife commented.
“Yes,” I agreed. “It is nice to have some proper food again.”
“Did you enjoy the night out with the blokes,” she asked.
“Very much so,” I responded.
“I take it you wouldn’t be interested in wearing my dresses,” I enquired.
“I wouldn’t be seen dead in them,” was her tactless reply.
“I suppose I should donate them to Vinnies.”
“Sounds a good idea.” Then she continued, “Have you abandoned any further ideas of transitioning?”
“Well, no,” I said with a wicked smile.
She recoiled in horror. “Really! What do you want to be now?”
“I was thinking of transitioning to be a cat.”
“Mm. I suppose that might suit you. You sleep half the day as it is. But mind you, if you become a cat, you will have to clean your own litter tray.”
“Oh yuck,” I exclaimed. “I hadn’t thought of that!”
I smiled. “Perhaps I should just work at being a better bloke.”
“Yeah, I think I would like that,” my wife replied,
“Ron and the others are planning to give me some more practice Friday night.”
She laughed and said,”You are incorrigible!”