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By: Iris Matthews


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A Message from My Brain (to the Auckland Medical School)

This is the brain of a male-female transgender person. I expect it to conform to that of a normal male, but probably not in every respect. For instance, my reading has suggested that the ‘bed nucleus of the stria terminalis’ may be more consistent with that found in the female brain, hence the peculiar phenomenon that has afflicted me all my life. Also note that I received total gender reassignment surgery in November 1991 at age 52. At that point, I’d already been on female hormones for some ten years, and I don’t know what ‘feminising’ effects have occurred in the brain as a result.

I believe that the establishing of a sense of gender identity consistent with the physical is prime in a child’s socialisation. I can’t speak for other TGs, but my awareness (around age 4) of the disjunction between my clear physical identity as a male (capable of fathering two children in adulthood) and a mental conviction that I should’ve been born female caused me significant misery throughout my life. My transition at 52 at least brought a kind of release from the fantasising, agonising, and guilt. Whatever, I can’t regret the only life I’ll ever have. There has been much pleasure and some achievement despite the rigours of a life with mind and body at war. Certainly, no prenatal intervention, or anything else, was possible in 1939, but it would be comforting to know that my brain, at some point, might contribute to research in the area. However, I believe that little or no research is undertaken in New Zealand into transgender-related brain structure anomalies currently, and I’m happy to accept that the medical school will use my brain as is appropriate to its purposes. Sincerely, I’m happy to contribute whatever to the host of men and women who have lived with gender dysphoria and ultimately found and those who perhaps never did.

Iris Matthews was born in the UK a week prior to the start of WW2. She has lived in Japan, Australia but mainly in New Zealand. She has by turns been a schoolteacher, a ‘pro’ actor and a painter/potter. Iris began life as a ‘he’ and in November 1991, properly became a ‘she’.

Prior to this in NZ, ‘he’ was married and fathered two children, with whom ‘she’ has a strong and ongoing relationship. Occasionally gets roles in TV and film but mostly, these days, directs plays for community theatres. Has a regular fishing mate and enjoys confounding the fish-face denizens of the Hauraki Gulf.

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