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This article was written by Christine Parker (#704) and published 01/01/2017).

All the world's a stage...

Shakespeare was a keen observer of human behaviour. In this quote from As You Like It, (Act II, Scene VII), as spoken by Jacques, he discusses the seven stages of life that men go through.

Having reached the sixth of these stages and having talked with hundreds of transpeople over the last 30 years, I have come to understand many of the common patterns within our community. I acknowledge that we all are inviduals and our lives and circumstances do vary considerably.

Shakespeare's words

Christine's comments

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

In this article I will discuss each of these stages about how many of us as with move through life and how we deal with our need to dress as women. These comments are generalisations about the more common ways and timescales that we deal to our gender issues and I acknowledge that there is much variation within the transgender community.

At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.

Boy and girl babies look very much the same, until you change their nappies! Infants are unaware of their gender or the opposite gender until early childhood.

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.

In childhood, gender issues begin to become apparent in how a child is dressed or how their hair is cut. If a pre-pubescent boy has longer hair and were to wear feminine clothes, he would easily be mistaken for a girl.

However, the transgender child is already having problems. The female to male transgender kids usually become obvious tomboys, something traditionally well tolerated in our culture. A feminine boy is less well tolerated at home and at school. Bullying may become common if a boy with transgender issues expresses any feminine behaviours as classmates and family may begin to have negative responses to this. "Boys don't do that", we are told. Most of us had to begun to try and hide our gender behaviours at this stage. A strongly gender-dysphoric child may not be able to hide them.

I recall being in kindergarten and being fascinated by girls and saying to a boy, in all innocence, I would like to be a girl. The boy was horrified and told me I was stupid. I learnt to shut up about my desires.

And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow.

Puberty kicks in and the obvious physical differences between males and females rapidly become very apparent. This is a very tough time for all children as the bodily changes begin, but doubly so if one is gender dysphoric. Boys who are transgender usually feel forced to be in the closet. Sexual arousal when dressed in female clothes becomes common, usually followed by post-orgasm disgust. Secretive dressing in mother's or sister's clothes may begin at this stage.

Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth.

In young adulthood, the gender divide continues to increase and causes distress and the need to to more fully cross-dress, often some of us wanting to more fully transform. Most of us may try to fit in the male stereotype with varying degrees of success. Some of us react by trying to become overly masculine, in an attempt to deny our femininity. However, the need to dress as a woman is very much stronger, but often hard to be able to express openly.

And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part.

Middle age, with its weight gain and the responsibilities of work and our own young families, will often mean that most of us become more closeted. A tolerant spouse may allow some private cross-dressing, but many will not. However, most of us try to cope by burying ourselves in work and family issues, such as raising teenage children and monitoring our ageing parents. However, the need to dress as a woman has not disappeared, it just has to be managed discreetly. Many of us do begin to come out and may want to meet fellow travellers in organisations such as Seahorse.

The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.

Older age is often characterised by a greater degree of acceptance of our gender issues. The children have grown up and left home. Work is a less important part of our lives. Many of us lose that middle-age spread, our beard hair becomes grey, and we lose muscle bulk. We are often more comfortable about our gender identity. The appearance of older women and men begins to become more similar which can make us more passable as women. One older and wiser member told me: "As we get older, we look less attractive, but more authentic" (when dressed as women). Having reach that age, I can attest that this is true.

Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

The end is near. Sadly we are all going to die one day, and one hopes with dignity and still being able to dress as women right to the end. Aged care facilities may, of course, not see it that way. One transwoman, who worked in aged care, that I met years ago, told me that she wanted gender reassignment surgery because if she needed to go into care later in life, she want to do so as a woman.

If we live long enough, we will reach a stage of helplessness in our later years, dependent on others and having little say about how we dress and present our selves. After death, others will decide under which name we are buried and how our body is dressed. I knew a young and depressed post-operative transwoman who suicided and was buried in her home town as a male. This cause great alarm amongst her trans-friends, that once you are dead others will make the decisions about your funeral.

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