Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Be thyself

Elizabeth Gillies: a picture of self-fulfilment? 

Another year ends. Do I know myself better than when I blogged this time last year? I fear not. Themes emerge, fuse, re-form, but no solid shape emerges from the swirling mist…

The impossibility of ‘purging’

I’ve never engaged in the physical ‘purging’ so common to crossdressers. An instinctive hoarder, I like to hang on to my schmutter, especially as I sometimes find new uses for long-overlooked garments. But periodically I make an attempt at mental purging – putting trans thoughts out of my mind, filling the head with ballast. Other sufferers will tell you it doesn’t work. I tried it in October. My resolve lasted all of two weeks – just long enough for me to start asking myself whether it was a compulsion or an addiction, this thing I feel.

Yes, I have a compulsion to crossdream, but I can only enter that state through the body, so I have to bathe and depilate before I can engage the mind. But if you think of it more as an addiction than a compulsion, it ought to be possible to beat it. If you get a ‘high’ from it – and I do – then it does have characteristics of an addiction.

Either way, contact with the living, breathing family over the Christmas period is a reality check. It’s so much harder to get into the ‘zone’ afterwards. Reality is a powerful solvent of fantasy.

Rebirth as imagined family

They say ‘you’re only young once’, with a finality that precludes argument. But what if they’re wrong? What if you could go round again, take another turn on the carousel, do it differently – do it as a girl?

I wrote in April of the curious fantasy of being my own ‘daughter’. Almost as soon as I’d hit on the idea, I ring-fenced it in imagination. So powerful is the incest taboo that it censors thoughts even before they rise to consciousness. And yet, where is the offence here? I have no daughter, so to imagine one as a fully grown woman arousing desire in the male beholder isn’t so outrageous. And, like a myth, the idea makes sense of contradictions in experience and bridges unexplained gaps in self-understanding.

I’m reminded of the Greek travel writer Pausanias (2nd C AD), who recorded a novel variant of the Narcissus story, in which the youth falls in love with his twin sister rather than himself (Description of Greece, 9.31):

[7] On the summit of Helicon is a small river called the Lamus. In the territory of the Thespians is a place called Donacon (Reed-bed). Here is the spring of Narcissus. They say that Narcissus looked into this water, and not understanding that he saw his own reflection, unconsciously fell in love with himself, and died of love at the spring. But it is utter stupidity to imagine that a man old enough to fall in love was incapable of distinguishing a man from a man’s reflection.

[8] There is another story about Narcissus, less popular indeed than the other, but not without some support. It is said that Narcissus had a twin sister; they were exactly alike in appearance, their hair was the same, they wore similar clothes, and went hunting together. The story goes on that Narcissus fell in love with his sister, and when the girl died, would go to the spring, knowing that it was his reflection that he saw, but in spite of this knowledge finding some relief for his love in imagining that he saw, not his own reflection, but the likeness of his sister. (tr. Jones/Ormerod, 1918)

Thwarted creativity

“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known” said Oscar Wilde. How I would like to believe that. (Of course, some would say that Wilde’s greatest work was his personality.) My own experience is that self-invention through crossdressing and transgender fantasy (if fantasy it be) runs counter to my own reawakened literary creativity. The two are in competition for my attention. If only they were aligned or were twin faces of the same phenomenon, I might have a rosy future.

Thus, at year-end 2015, I am still in conflict. A long-dormant creative self has reawoken. At the same time, she has become more insistent, laying claim to all my free time. If only she were my creative self, there would be integrity of personality. But she is not that (unless I can somehow make her into it). A physical presence much more than a spiritual one, she demands a continuous act of improvisation to sustain her. If I am not aware of her body through the senses (touch, sight, smell), she evaporates. Such insistent corporeality might be put to work by a performing artist – a dancer, perhaps – but it inhibits the writer.  

Reasons to be hopeful

My own uncertainties represent the tiniest of microclimates. Out there, in the wider world, serious climate change is occurring. British actress Rebecca Root, who starred in a trans-themed sitcom on BBC television, declared in April that “2015 is going to be the year to be trans”. There’s never been a better time to revolve questions of personal gender identity, even if it remains easier to revolve than to resolve. “From Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair front cover, to the upcoming Eddie Redmayne film The Danish Girl, in which the British star plays a transgender character, trans issues are in the cultural spotlight like never before.” Thus the HuffPost enthused, flagging up a forthcoming report on transgender equality from a committee of the UK Parliament.

To quote Wilde again: “’Know thyself’ was written over the portal of the antique world. Over the portal of the new world, ‘Be thyself’ shall be written”.

I wish my readers a happy, hopeful and self-fulfilling New Year!


  1. Hi Dabrela. Nice, honest post, and I featured it today on T-Central.

    Happy New Year!


    1. Hi Calie. Thanks for your support. Happy New Year to you too! Dabrela xx

  2. Oh, I can relate to most of this! But writing as Deborah works for me, better than crossdressing.

    Good luck, honey!

    Debs xxx