“There is a fundamental difference between middle aged adults who have raised children versus those who have not. It’s a way of addressing problems that they have to deal with as opposed to those that are less important. I am a middle-aged adult, I have raised two children, and I have reached a point where I have to address a key issue in my life: how small a slice of pie will I accept as a transwoman?”
Jane Cook is a 50-year-old professional who has raised two sons. “All accomplishments I achieved as a man. Now I will be a woman.” Jane wonders what aspects of her past identity will transfer intact and which ones will change or be diluted in her transition.
“I can never remember not feeling dysphoric.” Jane was raised a Mormon, with strong prohibitions against self-exploration. Her eyes grow distant but clear as she recalls a book, About Life and Love: Facts of life for LDS Teens. “The book said, ‘There is no mismatching of bodies and spirits’. I still remember the exact line.” Jane dated girls, but knew her attraction was different from other boys. “I always wondered, do I want to be with you, or do I want to be you? The dislocation became stronger the more I encountered intimacy. God bless The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Without that, how would I even know what transgender is!
Jane realized that she could be attracted to guys and felt comfortable within the Kinsey spectrum. But she fell in love with a woman and they had children. “Karen knew that I was queer from the beginning. But over the years, I was living with someone who understood what I could have been, not who I needed to be.”
When Jane began to express her female side, “At first, cross-dressing was exciting, then depressing. It is literally a drag. So many gender dysphoric people are suicidal. I was. That’s when you realize that you have to plunge into the unknown because the present is unsustainable.”
So Jane began a long process, social and professional as well as physical, to become a woman. Her company had processes in place to assist people in transition, but Jane was a high-level, public representative, so her transition demanded, and received, careful consideration. When the formal announcement took place, Jane met with more looks of understanding than bewilderment. “Nobody needed to change. They were already good people. Knowing that I can stay here and thrive here is important to me.”
I asked Jane if she considered herself a trailblazer. “Unfortunately, yes. Its a lot of work; very tiring. But I get strength out of my desperation. There is a lot of support in this country for me.” Jane finds support in the online community and in following public figures, like Bruce Jenner. And she has become a role model for others. Her son is a fan of Dan Harmon, creator of the TV show Community, and more recently, podcasts. When they visited LA and attended a recording session Don Harmon interviewed Jane. Now she has a twitter following. “It’s been a seven year process, from telling my wife to having a fan base (@JaneCook248).”
“Who am I going to be? I really don’t know. The incremental enlargement of subtleties leads to exponential change.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“What does it mean for humanity to move forward? Is being transgendered an affluent western phenomenon? Is it a way to attain Maslow’s hierarchy of achievement? Can we find value in our culture for a third gender identity?
“How we will live tomorrow will always be tied up with who we are as individuals and the power systems within our culture and society. We are always just one demagogue away from a holocaust. Technology can draw us close, but closing it down will make it easier to create disarray than ever.
“I look forward to a post-gender world, where biological presentation becomes unimportant.”