Displaying 1 - 5 of 328 entries.

Plus ça change

  • Posted on January 12, 2014 at 9:23 am

A young man is standing at night on the walls of the old city of Jerusalem. The scent of orange blossoms hangs in the warm Easter air. A growing warmth is also drawing him to a young woman who seems to like him. Over breakfast of pitta bread with strawberry jam, grape juice and Turkish coffee she likes his eyes, his sense of integrity, his humour and sense of where he is going.

A middle-aged woman is remembering her graduation year, the daring to go to Israel to see the archaeology and history just weeks before finals while everyone else was sweating their revision. She is remembering the morning muezzin after an evening of romantic feelings, and how her eyes had been so attractive to someone else.

A young man is descending a Peak District hill on a hot summer day. He has been struggling with something and walking is therapeutic. His rucksack contains the day’s essentials to protect him against change in weather and he is churning over thoughts as poetic lines and songs in his head. His boots strike the gritstone rocks as he negotiates the bracken hillside. The map in his pack is also in his head as he heads for the road that leads to toasted teacakes. This has all been familiar territory for some time.

A middle-aged woman in stout boots, jeans, rucksack and warm jumper has just left the crag-climbers behind as she follows the track through bracken and down to a grassy path and a familiar church. You can always follow the steeples as you come off the moor; this she learned when quite young, and first came to the Peak District by bus. A very old map is in her rucksack, the folds now open tears, but it is a reminder and a prompt if she fancies a new track or diversion. She’s come further than she had imagined to be here now. The valley will welcome her with a cosy tea shop, where she will distil some thoughts in her poetry notebook.

It is a daring moment for the father of two, as he begins work on a new house together. His plumbing skills will be called for, and some re-wiring, and he doesn’t yet realise, but the tiling job will turn into his first plastering job, and he will do it well to make a perfect little family bathroom. Before he leaves he will have renovated the kitchen, rebuilt doorways, installed full-length sliding wardrobe doors and interior and redecorated throughout. He will be cared for through back surgery, and he will also be found out for what he really is.

A 57-year old woman is detaching the soil pipe from a lavatory pan and clearing the bathroom in her flat for some renovation. By the time she finishes, the room will be quite different, with neatly boxed pipes and tiled surfaces, new flooring and attractive lilac walls. Here she will take her showers in a morning, and hot baths to candles and music at weekends. Other jobs will get sorted over time. About to be divorced, she is getting used to living alone and doing everything for herself. Soon she will be getting an appointment for surgery, and is wondering what it will be like, dealing with pain and recovery, alone.

A middle-aged man is lying on a gurney, a line in his arm and a pain in his back. If he is to walk normally again, parts of his body will be removed, the place closed, and he will recover. If the surgeon does his job well, the pain will be gone and he will stand on his toes again. His pain has evoked sympathy, support and loving care, and he has learnt a lot about pain, the mind, sense of value to others, and vulnerability. He has been scared, disturbed by a body that isn’t right, and prepared himself for this moment. Later, his eyes open in a disoriented state. It is over. Any pain is different. It will diminish in coming days, and life will return to normal.

A later-middle-aged woman is lying on a gurney, a line in her arm, and a yearning in her heart. Soon her eyes will close, and if the surgeon does his job well, her pain will be gone and she will dream of returning to dance, but in clothes that fit properly, and without having to disguise anything. She knows plenty of people who have come this way before her, and is reassured. But she will not be returning home to the love and care of a family. She has learned a lot about truth and authenticity, and about the conditionality of love. In a few hours, her eyes will open in a disoriented state of euphoria, and she will experience considerable pain before she begins to heal. But for the first time, she will feel really, fully, whole.

She may also lie there in the coming days and catch the scent of orange blossom in a shower gel or bar of soap. She may imagine the smell of strong coffee or ask for strawberry jam. Visitors may see a new light in her eyes, or recognise a strong integrity and a sense of arrival in someone who knows where they’re going. Her humour will break through as usual, unchanged. There may be a mixture of tears, from pain, from joy, and from the memory of a romance that started in Jerusalem and lasted over 30 years, and that depended entirely on that young man who woke with the muezzin. And that was conditional on her not being here, now, like this.

This is the story of a single person, in short episodes. Anyone really knowing this person may well say ‘plus ça change’. There may seem to be external changes, and indeed there are. But there is no pretence, and a lifetime of being one and the same person has finally come together. Very little can be considered ‘lost’ about this person. Her life has changed, and inside the difference is incomprehensibly better. But you will always know who she is.

But I don’t actually want this story to be about me. I want it to be a perspective for people starting out in the realisation that they have gender dysphoria, and for anyone who knows, loves and cares for them. I want also to show how being transsexual is a perfectly normal difference to be born with, and that avoiding the awareness and the issues is cruel and unnecessary. If this was the familiar story, rather than the sensational documentary about ‘sex swaps’, then we might all have grown up with acceptance. I have had to learn to be open and confident. To begin with it was daunting and I felt very vulnerable. That was after a lifetime of fear of being found out as something bad. I already knew it was bad to be thinking about my gender as different, and the parallels above illustrate how wrong and unnecessary the split life has been. I am not a different person, and if I have changed in some ways, it is only for the better. But most of me by far is the same, including the eyes.

This week I was asked if I was one of those men who likes to dance in a skirt. The misunderstanding was mine. As it transpired, the only reason I was asked was my name (more commonly sounding like a man’s name) and because in the dance I do, there is a background principle that allows wearing clothes that broaden your shared experience of being simply human rather than gendered. It was perfectly reasonable to guess, but it was not because of how I look. This, I didn’t mind, and it afforded to opportunity to explain openly what it means to be transsexual to someone who genuinely wanted to understand. I hope I shall always be prepared to sit down like this and explain. If I, and people like me don’t, the world will be full of men in the story above, who are too afraid to be who they really are (the woman in all the episodes above), and families and colleagues uncertain about being associated with us, and journalists who think that we are freaks and perverts and bad for society.

Plus ça change? I think so, despite my journey over the last few years. We all change over the course of our lives, and mine may seem like greater changes, but never ever think of people like me as becoming anything other than who we really are. Some things change when someone ‘transitions’, but many more do not.

Why it is never over

  • Posted on July 9, 2021 at 7:22 pm

Today is one of those days, the sort you are reminded of, which you would have been reminded of, but for which there is no need. It’s a mark on the calendar. On our calendar it is one of many births, marriages and deaths. This one is a birthday: my daughter is 30 today. I haven’t seen her for ten years now, so we have never known each other as adults. In those years many people have said ‘you never know, she might one day …’. But I don’t think so. Not now.

This isn’t public grieving, or looking for sympathy, just a note of what happens and how you keep finding that something is gone. I saw my marriage going down against all hope as I moved into transition. It wasn’t my decision and perhaps I was naïve to think that love could overcome becoming real. But this I didn’t see, and never had any meaningful conversation to engage with her over what was a deeper divorce. I am not alone, however many good stories I read of families that survive and thrive one member’s transition. I often wished that could have been mine.

So that was then and nothing has changed. But it also means I can’t talk to anyone about her, or ask after her and get any meaningful answers. I hope she is happy; I think she probably is. But hers is a life where I can never be supporting, listening, caring or doing and celebrating any of the things a normal parent does. I find it easier never to mention her because I have nothing to add, and people will always ask what happened, and if that means explaining about the problem of being trans, it adds more uncertainty about how much people know, understand, accept, or are kind.

It is never over.

I still think that her explanation about her father is either that he is dead or that he walked out. I guess I did, but that was because I could not hold myself together still loving someone after 30 years, who was daily moving away out of touch. And my daughter just made sure she was never there, not asking or finding out. You can’t persuade a trans person to ‘be both’, to be a little bit, even, of what they are not. We all needed to face it as it was and failed. And that is where the grief still lies, probably on all sides. And so I am either dead or a deserter, but anyway, happy birthday.

I find it very uncomfortable still, watching films and dramas in which the plot revolves around relationships breaking up in predictable ways, not out of badness, but out of the way the characters are framed. I see it coming and I am squirming: why did the writer make this happen? Why did they have to wreck lives, break families up, destroy loving well-meaning people who were doing their best?

One we have just been watching had a character trying to define love, so they would know when they found it. ‘You make me a better person’ was one way of knowing. So long as it doesn’t lead to dependence and conditionality. It is quite close to my skeptical definition ten years ago of ‘You make me the person I want to be.’ When that happens the other can’t grow, not even into what they could be, and you feel that the other is taking something away from you, if they do grow.

I have grown into more of what I should be, into more of what I am. I don’t know much about my family as was, but I would rather I could help them be better people than have to play dead. I am happy, absolutely and, I think, a better person who they will never know.

Families with trans members need support, and that was conspicuously missing for mine. I hope that one day my daughter will understand just enough to know it didn’t have to be like this.

Ten Years After

  • Posted on April 10, 2021 at 8:21 pm

It is ten years ago this month since I plucked up the courage to seek active support. I looked up a local trans group that had a weekly drop-in afternoon, and basically had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I scarcely knew where I was in life, only that things were changing and I hadn’t a clue what next. I was unemployed and just made redundant, worried about jobs after the age of 50, a son at university and a daughter growing our of home. I was at the level of sinking feelings that I was understanding something true, but unwanted. It was a growing realisation that felt a bit like the cranking up of a rollercoaster. It felt controlled, but heading for something that felt like free-fall.

I went to the support group, and it felt weird. So I wasn’t alone, which was great, but here was a room full (yes, full) of people who were so diverse that it wasn’t exactly reassuring at first! Where did I fit? That in itself proved very important, because I wasn’t presented with the ‘right’ way of being.

What happened after that is the subject of the whole of this blog, and it took me a year in which to understand that I would be going alone, losing much of what I had held dear for 30 years. It took a further 2 years to complete the foundation of this journey, and now 7 years on from that, it’s a whole decade of my life later.

So, ten years after? What was I doing on the 2021 Trans Day of Visibility?

I wasn’t doing anything.

Well, despite Covid, I was working. And I forgot. Should I have let people know? ‘Hey, everyone! It’s been ten years!’

In some ways this has been a quiet year. The gender-critical feminists had their time over the Gender Recognition Certificate consultation, that was published, fudged by the Women and Equalities Minister, and returned to the public for further contribution. I replied (here, if you’re interested). And so it goes on.

Worldwide, the tide washes this way and that, and trans people are as vulnerable to prejudice, discrimination and loss of rights as ever. I said it took me 2 years to complete the foundation of my journey: by which I meant that from my first consultation at a gender clinic to completing surgery, it was that long. It felt like an absolute age for me. You know, when you can see the answer to a puzzle, and people are saying, nah! put it back in the box for later, when we can solve it together. For you there’s no need; right now will do fine. As it turns out I was incredibly lucky, because the system was soon after overwhelmed and under-resourced. Waiting times are currently ‘extremely long’ (NHS GIC, 2020) and first appointments are taking 3 years.

In the past 7 years I have simply resolved into being who and what I am. And it is a peaceful place, gender-wise. The only disruption is face-to-face with the gender-critical ‘feminists’ who might grudgingly allow me to be ‘a woman, sort of’. Which would be OK, if they didn’t also petition and lobby for my exclusion from normal life. The rest of the time I don’t talk about it, other than to honest friends and to those it helps. So why this page? Are you interested? You really don’t have to be, but if you are on the same kind of journey, or have doubts about being able to find your way through, I hope it helps.

Visibility? I don’t really know. If nobody else minds, I have nothing to add. Ask me honestly and I will explain. I will petition and stand up, support, comment freely, protest for trans rights, and you will not know, unless you’re on the wrong side of the argument. I am not sure I want to be more visible than that, not least because I shouldn’t have to be. I just don’t hide anything: trans, lesbian partner, I’m just there.

Ten Years After?

That reminds me. The rock group of the same name was active during my grammar school years and I do look back and reflect. My hair was longer then (even after these lockdown times), and my musical preferences haven’t changed. Working from home, I have often given myself a background of the music of the times, especially progressive rock. These are our most formative years, and I wish I had understood myself as trans at the time, instead of the confusions, complications, and disruptions of simply feeling out of kilter with myself. My life would have been completely different of course, and I would never have had what I subsequently lost. My family would never have had the distress of my change. But that’s how it is. The old music still tells me that you are what you are, and that, for all that does change, many of the essentials never do. I am different, yes, but in most things I am not.

So wherever you are in life, being trans is just a part of what you are, and you really can get through the surf, or the storms and just be yourself. People will kick up, or even kick at you, but it is quite possible to get on, be authentic, be strong. And live. It’s a crazy world, but you don’t have to be.

Rolled up

  • Posted on February 9, 2020 at 5:39 pm

I come to you, not with baggage
but a rolled-up carpet, a rug
of dust, footprints and wear.
Sometimes it unrolls – something
pulls it back under my feet.
I hold its pattern, heavy, marked
by soles not just my own.
Textures and smells return years,
a memory becomes a feeling,
a footprint stands out, named.

You’re troubled by my silence,
unseeing where I stand
eyes dimmed, coursing, distant.
I’m still here, but so is everything,
not visiting but layered – sometimes
today is not opaque enough to see;
closure not what it seems.
You can seal a bag, but my rug,
my carpet, rolls on, past and present
curled close, over and over.

2019 © Andie Davidson

It is this

  • Posted on February 9, 2020 at 2:27 pm

It came at first when I was sleeping,
in my dreams I felt it breathing.
To my window while I was cooking, from
the corner of vision would see it snooping.
It would come in like a cat while I was eating,
brush my leg uninvited, for attention.
Leave quietly when I wasn’t looking
until I raised my eyes from reading.
Then it came to my bedroom door
and I could hear it scratching, scratching.

Scary, insistent, prowling, invading,
it is never a ghostly presence.
Far from dead, it is coming to life,
not threatening, it is begging.
I hear it denied, denounced, defended—
so I am not alone in imagining.

Today it was sitting on my sofa.
I asked it to leave and it stared.
It moved with me to the loo,
perched on the bath and waited.
I heard its breath catch as I washed,
felt it tug at my skirt as I dried.
It has not left me all day and I fear night,
as if it might creep in my ear, fill my head.
I don’t want it to become part of me,
I want it to go away, bother another.

Only I don’t wish this on anyone.
This heavy presence, this animus
that we have created in so many ways.
For everything I do brings it closer,
I am learning how it belongs.
I feed it, nurture it, bring it home.

I cannot sleep while it curls on my pillow
where it waits with its stories to tell.
I know them as bad dream tales,
as dark-and-stormy-night pages
that turn and turn without end.
The light is still on and I can see it
waiting for my ear to be close enough.
It tells me there is time to see and hear,
if I want to stroke it, I will understand.

“Ice melts, waters rise, the world burns
yet still men ask the price of oil …”

It is this. 

2020 © Andie Davidson

Kick

  • Posted on July 28, 2019 at 9:50 pm

Clipping behind the hedgerow, hooves
on the metalled road heard by horse
field-bound, lone, looks up, shakes mane
springs to life, snorts, stamps, neighs
and runs, runs, in circles, this way that
leaps and kicks, kicks the air, the space
that defines the division between ridden
and kept and keeps on kicking, neighing
when clipping has long faded, he is not
after all alone, just kept alone, just – kept.

Sometimes I run in circles, sure I have
heard the beat of something familiar
unseen but a rhythm that evokes a sense
of belonging a sense of place of something
making sense, from which I am – removed
and I kick and beat the walls as it fades
fearing too it is nothing, or just the sound
of another, more bidden and taken among
places, persuaded, used and trained, that
the circle I run might be their freedom.

Standing still today we eye each other
in rain across a hundred yards field,
shuffling frustrated hooves weighing
how we cannot greet for this – for what?
For a white ribbon electric fence for a wire
a metal gate and respect not to trespass.
I could climb, he could jump so easily,
if only he knew, if only I dared climb
my own awkwardness of being seen
to muddy my shoes to stroke a nose.

2019 © Andie Davidson