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Challenging Yourself and Finding Power in Acceptance

From enduring the challenges of relocating to a different country at a young age due to the troubles in Northern Ireland to embracing Roman Catholicism to raise my children, I have experienced numerous transitions in my life. However, none have been as profound and transformative as my gender transition. I aim to shed light on the significance of acceptance in my journey and share my experiences to help challenge the stigma surrounding gender identity.



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Living a life of acceptance requires a commitment to embracing it every day. I find it akin to Maslow's concept of self-actualisation in his Hierarchy of Needs—an aspirational state that encourages personal growth and fulfilment. Despite society's progress, a powerful stigma is still associated with specific terms, such as "transsexual," which can make individuals hesitate to use them even when accurately describing their experiences.


In 2016, when I came out as transgender, at that time, I learned that "transsexual" is an older word now encompassed by the broader term "transgender." In an enlightening article, I delved into the history of the terms "transvestite" and "transsexual," tracing their origins back to the pioneering work of Magnus Hirschfeld, a renowned German sexologist, during the early 1900s. Unfortunately, Hirschfeld's clinic was subjected to the first Nazi book burning, destroying his extensive library, which contained over 20,000 valuable records on gender and identity.


Hirschfeld's definition of transsexuals as "people who strongly desire to live as the opposite sex" remains relevant today. Transsexual individuals may identify as a gender different from those assigned at birth and pursue medical or surgical interventions to align their physical appearance with their gender identity. Gender dysphoria, a sense of distress arising from the incongruence between gender identity and assigned sex at birth, may also be experienced. While the term "transsexual" fell out of favour in the 1990s, it is crucial to acknowledge and reintroduce it into the conversation surrounding gender identity, given the historical erasure transsexual people have faced. It is important to note that all transsexual people are transgender, but not all transgender people are transsexual.


The erasure of transsexual people from the conversation has been an issue, so I wrote about adding the word back into my lexicon when speaking of gender.


Upon introspection, I realised that "transsexual" more accurately aligns with my personal experience than the broader term "transgender." As my transition progressed, I underwent medical and surgical interventions to align my physical sex characteristics with my gender identity. These interventions encompass hormone replacement therapy, cosmetic procedures, and gender-affirming surgery. While I understand that my biological sex will never be identical to a person assigned female at birth, I am a woman by the measure of many other women who know me. This process has been challenging, but I have never regretted my decision. The strength, wisdom, and peace I have gained surpass any obstacles I encountered.


I am proud of where I am today. I am stronger, wiser, and more at peace in my body than I ever thought possible. I know that not everyone will understand my decision to undergo gender transition, but I hope that by sharing my story, I can help to break down some of the stigma that still surrounds this topic.



Do you know someone or a team in need of a mentor? I'm available for client engagements, consulting & advisory services. If you're interested in working with me, please get in touch with me at cynthiafortlage@cynthiafortlage.com.


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