As I was having the few remaining hairs on my upper lip removed by a sadistically electrified needle yesterday, I was tempted to laugh (also to cry and/or whimper, but that was pretty much due to the needle itself and makes for a much plainer story). I’ll explain.
For quite a long time one of the ways they tried to treat gender confused male-bodied people was electroconvulsive therapy. The idea was that associating thoughts of being women with nasty and painful electric shocks might “cure” us poor deluded types from our cross-gendered thoughts. Eventually it was realized that this was cruel, potentially damaging, and, surely more importantly in the minds of the therapists, ineffective.
Which brings us up to our more enlightened age. These days the same set of gender dysphoric male-bodied folks shell out thousands of dollars to have a wicked little electric needle repeatedly jabbed into our faces in order to attain a properly feminine appearance. The very thing that makes this particular cosmetic torture bareable is the conviction that we are, in fact, women, and that we must suffer through whatever it takes to let the world see that.
There’s definitely a parallel between the two treatments. And I would suggest it shows something important and quite the opposite of what the electric-shock therapy guys sought to prove. It’s as if the trans world said “I’ll take your electric shocks, and use them to make myself even MORE of a woman than I was before. Ha!”
I’ve often thought that one of the things holding back public acceptance of transsexuals is that most people have very little concept of the pain and hardship we routinely endure just to become ourselves. A lot of people seem to believe that we’re deluded by quack psychologists into indulging our fantasies (I submit the South Park episode “Eek! A Penis” as exhibit A). An implication of this perspective is that transition is an easy escape from dealing with difference between reality and fantasy.
But actual reality suggests it’s seriously unlikely that someone merely indulging in fantasy could make it through the transition process. It costs too much and it hurts too much – and I’m not just talking about emotional pain (I submit sadistic electric needles as exhibit B). The intensity of our affliction is reflected in the intensity of suffering we’re willing to endure to resolve it.
If other people knew what it felt like for us to go through our transition I think it would go a long way toward their understanding of us. A feeling of such intensity that it coopts the aversive therapy intending to cure it is well beyond the understanding of most people. If they could come to appreciate just that much, then maybe they could find it in their hearts to give us more of a break.