In 1971, during my high school days, the Sidney Kubrick’s move “A Clockwork Orange” was released. (Wow, that’s 50 years this year, so I suppose it’s now a VINTAGE movie.) It was a violent movie that was considered disturbing, challenging and very controversial. I must admit I did not go see it straight away, as it was rated 18+. I had to wait a few years for that legal milestone birthday to pass and then for the movie to return to the big screen, before I actually was able to experience it. A week later I saw the Exorcist, as I started on my frantic catch-up of seeing my back log of those R-Rated movies I had miss out in my early teens.
What I found fascinating about this movie was the concept of aversion therapy and conditioning as a way of modifying behaviour. Of course the movie displayed extremes in both the ultraviolence and the treatment, while at the same time, somewhat simplifying the processes. The treatment “cured” the “anti-hero” through pain, suffering and associate behaviour, but the ending reveals how temporary the fix was. I watched it at a time in my life where conflict consumed my thoughts. Those childhood dreams of being Jenny had turned into being just that, childhood memories, while the anxiety of being the man I was supposed to be was making me hate everything about myself. Stories about gay-conversion therapy were popular and this was a turning point that changed the way that I needed to relive my life.
I never considered any therapy back then, because I never had the strength to be open about what was going on internally. I did not want to be cured and transitioning to Jenny was too difficult. To compromise, I rationalized all my actions by viewing them as harmless things that I vould do in private, underplaying the big picture. This was just so I could feel normal. I would tell myself that as I liked to wear a pretty dress, that made me a crossdresser. If I got aroused while dressed, it was just a mild fetish. If I was dressed up and felt at peace, it was because crossdressing relaxed me. If the need to be Jenny was overtaking my thoughts, then I was just being weak and succumbing to unnatural impulses. If I hated seeing my male body and it was making me feel disconnected, it was because…….. Rationalization was required on my part so I was able to live in this world.
In my university days, I had to do a couple of humanity units and the only ones that seemed relevant to my course was Psychology. It was there I was introduced to Pavlov and his salivating dogs, with B.F. Skinner, cheering on from the wings. I think we all, know deep down, that life and human behaviour is never as simple or as black and white as the textbooks want us to believe. Pavlov showed that our subconscious actions can taught by conditioning. Skinner believed, “that all human action was the direct result of conditioning and dependent on consequences of previous actions. So if the consequences to an action are bad, there is a high chance the action will not be repeated; if the consequences are good, the probability of the action being repeated becomes stronger.” Again this is the premise of the movie “A Clockwork Orange”. Unfortunately behaviourists like Skinner, do not believe in the concept of free will, which I do find disturbing, but this is something to explore at another time.
Over time I started to realize that what I did and am doing are all part of my survival responses forged by previous experiences. It is the experienced consequences, both positive and negative, that have shaped Jenny’s growth, or lack of. These experiences did not create Jenny, as she was formed in the womb and was there at my birth. It has taken all of my life up till now, for Jenny to be who I am.
I reflect on my early childhood and the milestones that define me, and wonder if I had got different responses, would it have shaped a different person. An example is, as I was brought up in a strict catholic household, homosexuality was a shameful sin, which brought down hell and damnation on the sinners. During primary school, I was comfortable playing with the girls as I felt more aligned with them. They were friends. As I grew up, the boys were starting to talk about girl’s body parts and looking at playboy magazine. I found this distasteful. To me women were never really sexual objects. What caught my attention was what dress they were wearing, how they did their makeup or what they did with their hair. I turned out to be a late dater, as girls were friends, rather than partners. Secretly, I would think about what sort of man I would marry, if I could, not from a homosexual point of view, but rather from a girl meets boy perspective. I had no interest in gay men, as Jenny wanted a “normal” husband.
These desire and wishes had to remain as locked up secrets for I felt if known, the consequences, would have been diabolical. The few times that I did open up, resulted in some correctional therapy, so I was conditioned to keep these thoughts to myself. I grew up in a time, that was very unforgiving to anything out of the normal. Growing up today, or even back then, under the right conditions and support I wonder how different things might be.
When I did marry, it was not as Jenny. I married and am still married to my soulmate.
Skinner, Pavlov and even his dogs are right to a certain extent that we are all products of conditioning. What I think we sometimes forgot is that the positive or negative reinforcements we have received over our lifetime, might be responsible for the way we deal with our crossdressing, transgender and diversity issues. The effects of conditioning, like any formed habits are reversible. If you suffer guilt when you put on a dress, it is not the item of clothing that is causing this, but rather it’s what you believe you are doing is perceived as being wrong. If you then look at what has conditioned you to feel this way, you can work in positive feelings to counter the bad vibes.
Being able to recognize what we are doing and then see if it enhances or detracts from who we want to be, is how we live better lives.