Saturday, January 10, 2009

10th Jan 2009

I had a work meeting with a young woman the other day.

She looked pale and tired. After a while, she looked around nervously and said "It's public now, I can say it", as if she was about to make a confession of something a bit shameful and sordid, "I'm pregnant".

And then she said when she was going on maternity leave. Which would cut across a possible project we were discussing.

I asked her how she'd been feeling, and she said "Better. Better than i was at least".

And she must have been very ill, to judge from how ill she was looking. All kinds of things in our earlier conversation fell into place - a tiredness, a certain vagueness, a certain diffidence.

It seemed clear that she was at odds with herself, somehow. that the professional administrator was being pulled in quite a different direction by the demands of the new life within her.

That the demands of womanhood were at war with the demands of her job, and she couldn't reconcile the two worlds at all.

i remember some of the conversations I had had when women came up to me after I'd been speaking in public. one in particular who said she had until recently been working in a highly responsible job and it was only now, now she had retired, that she felt able to "become a woman again".

It's very clear that the dilemma I have been struggling with - of feeling I had to conceal, downgrade, suppress the demands of a female identity - are absolutely not, as I always supposed, confined to the condition of being trans and certainly not, as I had also always supposed, confined to me alone.

There is a much wider condition of suppression going on.

It's all been highlighted very fiercely and strongly and distressingly by the case of a minister of the French government who has felt obliged to go back to work 5 days after giving birth by caesarian section.

Five days.

And to go back, what is more, looking supremely elegant and well groomed.

As if nothing had happened.


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