A Way of Seeing is the new book by Coran Foddering – looking at living, and learning to accept, gender dysphoria…
What is gender dysphoria and how did it affect you?
Gender dysphoria is where there is a feeling of discomfort with the body, a mismatch between the physical form and the sense of self. It creates a conflict, a deep internal struggle between the reflection we see in the mirror and the person we feel should be staring back. The two simply don’t match and this causes pain beyond measure. Why doesn’t my reflection show who I am inside?
The jury is still out as to what causes gender dysphoria but it’s likely to be a subtle mix of nurture vs nature with the greatest effect being due to hormonal surges in the fetus during the first months after conception; the resulting brain is thus out of alignment with its host.
The other great conflict is how we are treated by parents, peers, friends and society, a society infected over multiple generations by religious doctrine and dogma. Because people do not or choose not to understand our difficulty they presume it ok to bully, diminish and ridicule us. Some trans people are merely teased while others experience physical attacks and some are murdered just for being themselves. 50% of trans people will attempt or succeed in committing suicide as an avenue of resolution.
My experience was bullying and ridicule and a sense of being worthless as a human being because I could not fit into the box assigned at birth. The constant barrage of snide comment and hateful words dig far deeper than a fist and leaves one with a feeling of insignificance, of having no value, of being rejected.
Everything about me, all my gifts, my empathy, my art, my personality, were reduced, demolished by other people who wanted me to squeeze into the role they had given me. I vanished and this left a shell that acted like a puppet whose strings were pulled by all in sundry. I lived in a prison built by others but I added to it substantially to garner protection from all the mockery and derision.
What impact did this have on your life?
My sense of worth reduced to absolute zero. Anything I tried to do in life was a mistake and a failure according to others. The word ‘rejection’ cannot paint a dark enough picture to describe what it’s like to feel empty and meaningless and worthless. Depression was a constant companion as were antidepressants. Several times I considered suicide but only once did I pick up a bottle of tablets. Such was the depth of indoctrination I would obviously fail at this too.
When one is subjected to constant derision, you develop a sense of perfectionism as compensation and this takes its toll as everything you try seems never good enough. As a consequence you stop trying. Rather than thriving, I existed. I was angry, really very angry at the treatment I received but since our family didn’t do anger, I actively suppressed my feelings and so everything was hidden deep down in the crevices of a troubled mind hopefully never to be seen again. Suppression is fraught with danger as it’s like a volcano which erupts suddenly, and without warning.
Even though I am still very creative and can think outside the box most of the time, I sometimes look back and consider what I could have achieved had I been nurtured instead. When people have their opinions of you, and parts of you are rejected by them, it’s not possible to submerge just that part. The rest of you submerges with it. You become less than you could have been.
You now describe yourself as transgender – what does this mean?
Transgender is a label that describes just 10% of me. It is however, the other 90% that is far more interesting. We are all transgender to some extent as gender expression is a vast spectrum and we all sit somewhere on that spectrum. Trans means movement, a transition from one state to another. Trans people never truly achieve their goal but come close as we are always evolving, finding what works and what doesn’t. It sounds like we’re just ordinary human beings then!
To be human is to struggle as this is what drives the psyche to grow and develop. Trans people just have a particular form of struggle. We are all evolving as change is the only constant in our universe. For some trans people the route chosen require physical alterations to bring the body into harmony with the mind. For me, the journey became a more spiritual evolution as the consciousness and awareness of my self grew far beyond my expectations.
Albert Einstein said that “a problem cannot be solved at the level of consciousness that created it”. I chose then to resolve my difficulties in life by consciously working with my soul to discover the answers to questions I didn’t know I could actually ask. The more I looked within, the more I found I could release. And release I did.
What everyday challenges do you have to cope with that many of us take for granted?
As human beings we are inherently programmed to see faces in a certain way. We can see the subtleness in shapes and sizes and anything that doesn’t quite fit stands out. There are certain characteristics we associate with the feminine and certain ones we associate with the masculine. When we see both in one person, this challenges our subconscious view of that person so we question. In that questioning it’s possible it brings up strong emotion within us and this may drive us to attack in words or deeds rather than just watch. A word the trans community use to describe this ability to fit in is ‘passing’.
Passing is a challenge at the beginning of the transition to get the right look, to be part of the crowd again, to be invisible. To be seen as who we were instead of who we are is a very painful experience. To be called male when in fact I see myself as female is very challenging. For me, that brought that sense of failure to the surface yet again.
Unlike some of my trans sisters and brothers, I have not been attacked physically although even an unwanted look can sometimes bring a sense of vulnerability and jeopardy. Using public restrooms is a particular stress due to feeling out of place and that feeling is transmitted to those already in that restroom who will subconsciously respond to that and so stare.
For a number of years I could only go out after dark in case I was seen dressed in female clothing and be challenged. At the end of 2004, after losing 3 stone in weight fighting against the metaphorical prison bars, I chose to face the dilemma and move to a full transition into the female role. This brought up all sorts of emotions which were very difficult to restrain. Everyone was watching me, or so I thought.
It is very easy to wear our fear upon our sleeves so in broadcasting this, others will subconsciously receive that fear and so may act towards you who they perceive as causing their fear. As I transitioned both physically and spiritually, the less fear I had to broadcast and so it became easier to be seen as I wanted to be seen.
You seem much more comfortable with who you are now than you did in the past – how have you been able to reach this position of acceptance of yourself and of other’s attitudes towards you?
In the journey throughout the trials and tribulations of life and writing, I discovered myself again after throwing off the dust caused by other people pushing their own agendas onto me and other people. I also spent time demolishing the prison they had erected around me.
Some act appallingly towards others because they have their own pain and trauma trapped inside so choose to blame another for this pain rather than search within to discover ways to release. The world is in a blame game rather than expressing compassion and integration. The constant blame game gives others power over us. Unless we choose to dive deep into our emotions and let go.
Acceptance of self is the only way forward to finding peace and release from anger and hate and sometimes this means solitude, a space of quiet. Only then can these internalised pains find a voice. If we don’t listen to ourselves how can we heal?
By choosing to look deep within, far deeper than ever before, I discovered the uncorrupted soul and so carry this energy on the outside instead of the prison wall painted with a caricature designed to appease and mollify those around me. To walk inside the depths of one’s dark abyss is not an easy journey and requires great commitment. The payoff in doing so is truly dramatic. That inward journey to peace is what the book is about. And everyone needs peace.
Follow my journey to see if you can see yours in it. Step into the unknown with me as your guide.
What inspired you to write the book?
The title came to me in 1998 but at that stage I had no idea what would fill it and what it would eventually become. Initially, it was just about perception and the way we, as individuals, see the world and those around us in our lives, how we perceive them and how we think they perceive us. As gender expression is a very large part of my life that also included itself into the mix.
I was always poor at English at school and getting myself understood so I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the writing and what it meant to me. It was almost as though my soul was talking just to me through the medium of words, guiding me towards a release of emotion, hate and anger stored for decades. The words will also have an impact on those who read them as they will become a series of pebbles thrown into still waters.
In order to write the book, I had to journey into my own pain to discover the light at the end of the tunnel. That light was me. The freedom and peace I now feel is palpable and indescribable. I am in a space of infinite possibilities. I have no agenda, no judgement and great compassion.
What did surprise me was the coverage of gender consisted only 10% of the book. I realised that we are all human and have human frailties and human desires and human emotions. It is this 90% that we have in common so anyone will find a spark in my words with which to ignite the light within them. We are all human beings after all.
Where can we buy your book ‘A Way of Seeing’?
The book can be found on Amazon. It is currently only available on Kindle.