I was staring at thousands of emails in my inbox a few nights ago. Virgin Media seems to find it impossible to connect me with myself, or my old broadband account with my new – and will therefore delete my old email address in 30 days. No problem, except my laziness over I.T.-related geek-mails on doing stuff better, and old but interesting subscriptions on environmental issues. Nothing personal at all, just stuff. So why not make sure there’s nothing I really need in there, and delete the lot now? I never send on this email (for obvious reasons) so perhaps I should be thankful. Mind you, I used up most of my month’s phone allocation last month, in phoning Virgin Media about my current email address, which they also could not associate with the fact that they take money out of my bank account for broadband every month!
So, deletion it was. You will be familiar with that moment, when you don’t know for sure if ‘delete’ really means delete? Is this really gone forever, or just in trash/recycling? (And own up, have you never rescued a crumpled up email from the trash bin on your PC?) And bit by bit, all those old and largely forgotten or unwanted emails flew away (you do know that if you hold the Shift key while pressing Delete, there are no second chances?). Job done, and less risk of my emails blowing apart from overcrowding in the folders.
I relived this today. Off I went to Charing Cross (Gender Identity Clinic), in elated expectation that I might get a bit of a schedule for surgery. It’s been four months since I had a full diagnosis sent to my GP. No more questions, I thought. Finally, I have been understood. I’d been given the impression that I was looking at spring 2014 for an end to all this. I was really excited that at last, this would all be over. I was imagining dancing in leggings without the tunic, sitting on the beach in a swimsuit, swimming again, maybe even finding an intimate relationship …
Instead I found myself going over the same ground all over again. I can’t remember how many times to how many people I’ve rehearsed the same things. I even had to sign a form saying I’m white, British, for the umpteenth time. OK, ink is cheap, but my life isn’t. I really couldn’t believe it. No, the clothes were never a fetish; no things I wore from the age of 14 were not sexual. No, I repeat no, I do not doubt this. (You know, some people feel just like you do, and then decide it isn’t for them?) I have not thought for a fragment of one moment that I am perhaps after all, not a woman. Not one fragment of a fragment. You see people every day, you hear their stories, but you will never know what it feels like to know what you are, in this way, to be of a gender at odds with your bits. Have I noticed any body changes after taking hormones for 15 months? For fuck’s sake, these are my boobs!!
Nothing was contributed today, other than to satisfy yet another person that I should be referred for surgey. OK; I think I get it now:
- You go to your GP.
- Your GP refers you to local psychiatry (you wait 2 months).
- Your local psychiatrist recommends your GP refers you to the gender clinic (you wait another 2 months for this letter to travel 3 miles across town).
- You get the referral date – in all, a wait of 6 to 9 months to see a psychiatrist at the gender clinic.
- The first psychiatrist agrees you should get a second opinion, so back to the beginning of the same queue … (you wait 7 months for this appointment).
- You see a second psychiatrist, who confirms a diagnosis as transsexual and recommends your GP prescribes hormones.
- You stop buying your own hormones …
- 4 months later you go back to the gender clinic and see another psychiatrist, who agrees with the previous one, who agreed with the one before, who agreed with the one your GP sent you to … who agreed with your own diagnosis of gender dyspohoria.
- 4 to 6 months later you see the surgical team and once more (with feeling) you go through the options and risks that you’ve already researched in gruesome detail on the Internet and with post-op friends.
- (At this point I shall get my GRC (gender recognition certificate), followed by a replacement birth certificate.)
- 6 to 9 months after that, you probably get your operation date.
That’s how it goes in the very best scenario, and, to be fair, mine has been. I didn’t present to my GP until I was 100% sure about myself. I attended the clinic long after self-prescribed hormones. I received my full diagnosis 14 months after transition. I had my final referral out of mental health, into surgical, 18 months after transition. I shall have full legal recognition of my gender, down the very last deletion of my male assignation, six months before surgery. The whole journey to finding out that gender dysphoria was a diagnosis that fitted me, to the end, will be four years.
And you know, in all that time, no-one has asked or offered a blood test? My GP won’t do anything without explicit instruction from the clinic, and no-one has looked at my breasts to see how development is progressing. Gender transition is 95% do-it-yourself. (They don’t hand you the scalpel!)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful in any way, just very, very frustrated, that after a lifetime’s struggle, at the age of 56, I’m still being asked today:
‘Do you really want to delete?’
‘Are you really sure?’
’If you press delete, you will, in fact, be deleting this file. Are you sure?’
I am holding my Shift key down very firmly and pressing Delete even more insistently.
The only other option is Ctrl+Alt+Del
I think you know what that means.