I returned to dancing last night, my first opportunity in a month after playing in an orchestra for a concert, which occupied the same evening of the week. It was really lovely to see friends again, have a hug or two and dance, and dance, and sweat, and express and release. I had it marked in my diary as ‘2 years!’
On April 4 2012, someone, somewhere, date stamped my deed poll, and I became legally Ms Andie.
I’ve gone through other two-year markers, but this is the one that is taken as the starting blocks for transition and eligibility for true recognition in your own gender identity. Until this point, the assertion is that you are still in your birth-assigned gender, and that anything else is unproven. For two years I have been Ms Andie by name only, with the proviso that if I could make it through, I would have the right to apply to legally change my gender marker, including my birth certificate. It is true that, had I faltered, I would be referred to as a man, trying to be something I wasn’t. It has been just like a suspended sentence, and that period is now over for good.
A quick review then of living under a suspended sentence
I remember the day I simply gave up waiting for approval, and filled in my deed poll application. Downloaded forms, filled in and signed, no second thoughts about a very simple name, taken to a good friend to be witnessed, a small cheque and into the post. And the day it came back, date stamped stating that I was no longer entitled to be addressed for any official purpose by any other name.
I remember clearing my wardrobe and drawers. Some to the textile recycling, most to a charity shop. And the feeling of returning home to the absence of all the old trappings, my own clothes no longer crushed into the wardrobe.
This was the time when all intimacy in my life ended, and I have known none since. Family life (my daughter aside) continued for another six months, but I was no longer welcome in my own home. I made it through my son’s graduation in Falmouth, which was a big enough and public enough event, with all the other parents around, but no-one gave me a look or batted an eyelid.
This was the start of my assessment too. One month after the deed poll (yes, after!) I saw the first of four psychiatrists, in order to be assessed as to whether I was mentally or emotionally disturbed or whether, indeed, I was born transsexual. The suspended sentence began.
Soon after the deed poll I also knew I needed to find employment; being self-employed wasn’t guaranteed to provide an income for life on my own. Partly by chance I gained the opportunity to do some consultancy, and that turned into full-time employment within three months. It was the first time in 30 years that I was not a manager, and it has been both safe but frustrating. I found complete acceptance at work, and to be honest, looking at my photos from the time, I can see that courage and confidence was everything!
With the start of work, the same week, I started self-prescribed hormones and testosterone blockers. Carefully, and researched, but yes, against the rules, because I knew that clinical attention was going to take a long time. It did; in fact it took a year before I was able to gain prescriptions. Several very widely-spaced trips to London and the gender identity clinic, dragged me across the two years entirely beholden to the judgement of others. It was like being called in to check the terms and compliance of my probation. There were no hiccups in terms of my feelings about myself, and no doubts ever expressed over my declared identity, just a lot of time, misleading expectations, and ultimate failure to deliver timely clinical interventions.
Back to June 2012 though, and I hit rock bottom just two months after the deed poll. I felt destined never to be truly regarded as a woman. Or indeed as a man. Rather, it hit me hard that I had to face the rest of my life being nothing. Excluded from normal human expectations, I felt it was better not to live at all. I knew that I may never be truly loved and cherished ever again. I might have been right; I’ve just learned for now to live with it. In therapy at this time, I made a promise to myself not to kill myself, and I have a token of that promise in the form of a piece of quartz crystal I was given, that stays at my bedside.
And just two months after this I knew, for my own safety from myself, I had to move out on my own. This was the worst time of all, and I’ve written enough about it. But I found a lovely place to go, very quickly and easily, and by October I was living on my own, stranger to my family, confirmed in permanent employment, and learning to rebuild a domestic life in my own style. I would not have done this at all well without the help of just a few, and one particular, close friend.
It took until the end of the year to actually have my first appointment at the gender identity clinic, but being a woman in the world, feeling the effects of hormones, and finding my feet with no shadow of the past dragging me back, was wonderful. I had a public poetry reading at the South Bank, a very lonely Christmas, discovered dance, finally shed the prosthetic aids (boobs and hair) took myself back to counselling to straighten out my grief and loss, went through a very instructive episode of pneumonia all before appointment number two in London. By this time (May 2013) I was feeling so completely naturalised in living my gender that having to submit to these consultations was annoying. The third (not until September 2013, was deeply irritating). But the May diagnosis did at least get me the prescriptions.
Summer brought me into regular Five Rhythms dance, from which I have never recovered. It is my deepest expression of self amongst some of the nicest and most genuine people I have met, and a season of small-group workshops in the autumn was an added privilege.
Autumn 2013 saw me cleared for gender confirmation surgery, and the story of how I am now fast tracked for July treatment is in recent blogs. I finally sold the marital home, bought a flat nearer to friends, and settled. Three months ago I was divorced. From now on, it’s just me.
So much more has happened, but all these things have been with a sense of very normal living, a deep gratitude for being finally ‘allowed’ to be myself, finding great happiness in that, and knowing day by day that I’m ‘getting there’. Not easy, and I have been a real pain to even my best friends at times, but I am where I should be, not just where I want to be.
What this blog is about, is simply that all these major changes have happened under the banner of the suspended sentence, termed variously as ‘real life experience’, ‘living as a woman’ and so on, as if it were all temporary, subject to change and approval before I could ‘really’ claim to be be myself, a woman, and not just transgendered or transsexual. It is as much an affirmation that I have not changed, I have just found myself.
April 4, 2014; finally the suspended sentence …
… is over.