You are currently browsing the archives for September 2012.
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  • Posted on September 30, 2012 at 8:09 am

Last Friday evening I spent a lovely time with Laura Newman, whose new book A Love Less Ordinary will very soon be published with Bramley Press. It was the first time we met, after numerous emails getting the book arranged, designed and processed, and was a wonderful getting-to-know. But perhaps what I shall remember most is that once more, someone who didn’t begin this journey with me, who sees it from the outside, sees someone very positive and very happy, who has turned their life around in what is really a very short time. For me, it has been intense at times, as scary as a narrow bridge over a canyon, without the other side in sight. And it seems like ages. It was very affirming to meet Laura, and I am looking forward to meeting her and Nicci before too long.

Yesterday I went for my monthly back-rescue. Deep tissue massage includes elbows! It isn’t fun exactly, and I probably undid a lot of good by playing the trumpet all afternoon and evening. I can’t remember how many years I’ve been going, but it is a special relationship when you repeatedly allow someone to do that to you – and still feel grateful! It is also the one place where I have taken my changes, to be seen and talked over, and found complete acceptance as I’ve explained myself a little more each time. Of course, as so often, I’m not the only trans person she has known, but I could also have been met with a certain distance and caution, and I wasn’t. The reason I mention yesterday is that somehow we just fell into talking as two women together, and I no longer felt ‘trans’.

It’s been like that recently – falling onto conversation as a woman with another woman, almost as if they haven’t noticed, or if they do it counts for nothing. And I realised, as I joined the orchestra later for the rest of the day, that this was another first, in playing for them as a woman. It’s an ad hoc orchestra, and many people do know me, but not all. By now, when these firsts happen, I don’t really think about it, because it is actually quite difficult to remember how I used to be. It is so far removed, that the nice man on the trumpet is like someone else I vaguely used to remember. I remember concerts I played, because it was me alright, and it was fun, but it’s the me bit, not the presentation of self, that I recall. All sorts of people I don’t know came up to me afterwards to complement my playing, so I know that being the slightly-different-looking woman simply doesn’t get in the way any more.

So in a way this is a point of arrival, like when you are on board and the ship is under way. There is a separation, an excitement, all the big efforts to get here now taken over by a vessel with a purpose and a known destination.

And all this in the same weekend as I prepared finally to leave the person I have loved most for so very long, and still do. So why have I titled this blog ‘Happiness’?

All these touches of knowing self, of being recognised at last being as I should always have been, of a sense of the deepest integrity, of falling completely into place, leave me feeling more happy with myself, in my deepest sense of self, than I have ever been my whole life. It is very hard to express, or find adequate words, because unless you have been there, it’s as if the words don’t exist. It is a happiness so powerful that nothing is strong enough to put me back anywhere else. I face years of frustration getting my body properly adjusted, and every day it feels more and more inappropriate in certain respects. As my breasts begin to develop it feels like the restoration of a missing part of me. Like when a valuable jar has stood for many years and been admired, then finally the original lid turns up and is reunited.

This is just so completely right.

Losing love simply tears me apart, but at the same time I know this happiness. Such an irony; back to the paradoxes in many of my blog posts. But how can I explain?

I wanted to write this for all those trans* people in a similar position, for whom it is so incredibly hard to arrive at self because of the associated loss. For all those people who, unlike Nicci with her Laura and their love less ordinary, must lose love, lose family, and go alone. I want to say that the happiness of finding your self, maybe finding your soul, really does outweigh all else, and that it is yours, if you want it. Nothing in this world is worth hanging onto if it keeps you from this kind of happiness, and you will find the resources to see you through the worst of the loss, the most difficult of times, the feelings of distrust or hatred from a few, and the insecurity of a place you’ve never been before. You will find true friends, you will find acceptance and understanding, and you can hope, with me, that you will find love that is as deep and as shared and as committed as you will ever need.

And in case anyone accuses you of selfishness, look back on my earlier musings: Selfish. Self(ish). Self.

Two heads are better than one

  • Posted on September 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

I should be writing poetry. OK, I shall – but right now all I have is a box full of nice groups of words and an idea to hang onto. Anyhow, it was all running through my head after I woke up far too early as always, and I thought if I kept running it over and over (a) I would remember it without writing it down and (b) I might fall asleep again! So I shall start with the narrative instead, in my usual thinking-in-pictures way. It works for me, but I know my parables and analogies don’t work for everyone.

My last blog ‘The Column’ stayed with me, because I have been asking myself what were my illusory supports for life-as-I-thought-it-was? Did I think I needed to be a man, or just to be strong? Or was I over-dependent on a life partnership that wasn’t keeping my own dome of light in place at all? I was also thinking of my wife, and how her column is her own sexuality, that I have undermined in being transsexual, but it would be presumptuous of me to say that for her, our life partnership was not supported entirely by heterosexuality. I don’t write about her, or to her, really here at all. I am an observer of my own journey, and she is a player. My over-riding emotion throughout has been sheer frustration and profound sadness, that though I am still me, always have been, and can be nothing else, I am no longer lovable for simply being me. It isn’t resentment or bitterness, but I am going through a final anger as I pack a bit more each day to leave next week, knowing I can no longer bear the pain of rejection at every coming and going, at every rising and going to bed. And as a result simply of how I was born, that I am losing so much. I have gained my soul and lost the world in some ways, but in truth my only real loss is my family and my home. No-one else has moved away from me in the same way, and well, the rest is just ‘stuff’ isn’t it?


I was born with two heads.

At some point before I was born, there was a ‘foetal error’, and no-one was there to see the alert box come up to ask if the failure should be reported. I got the dreaded blue screen, but no restart. (You will understand that if you remember Windows 95 and before!)

Somewhere in the tangle of DNA – and everyone knows what can happen if you don’t keep things tidy – something didn’t go according to plan. And so I was born with two heads. A kick of maternal hormones in the wrong moment, a gene that didn’t express itself at the right time, who knows. But there I was, seen for the first time, and everyone said: ‘It’s a boy!’.

No doubt about it. The baby had a willy, so I was a boy. But I had two heads, and everyone was so busy looking downstairs, nobody noticed. And from that point on, everyone spoke to the boy head, taught it, played with it, heard it speak, and never really noticed the girl head.

As I grew up, things in the boy head switched on the whole testosterone-building process. And so it was that my maiden head was hidden under my man hood.

The outside head learned all sorts of useful things, and will always remember how to wire a house, fix a machine, roof a shed. But all the while the inner head was looking through the same eyes, hearing with the same ears, and being forbidden to speak. She would think: I like that! He would say: it’s too pretty. She would think: I love in this way. He would love in that way too, because somehow he knew it was how it should be done. She, on the inside, made him on the outside, a gentle, kind, empathic man. She would understand other people in a way he never could. And she would stand in longing, in places men don’t go. Unless they have two heads, and can’t help themselves.

And so I spent 56 years with two heads, arguing at times, in constant dialogue, in which the outer head was made more loving, more caring, more sensitive, but hobbled as a man in a man’s world. And in which the inner head was screaming, as only a woman can, to be heard, and most of all to be seen. Why should the male head be on the outside and the woman be hidden?

I still have two heads. I think I always shall. It’s just that my male head never had the right to predominate and lead. I am the woman who can wire a house and fix a machine or a roof, but most of all, who has had to live as a man among men, observing and learning how they work and relate, always knowing I was not one of them. In my work now, I think it actually helps. I understand machines, and I understand how men work together. And thank goodness I play a different game now that I am an observer. I can be colourful and pretty, my emotions and my personality match my presentation, and increasingly my body is coming into line with my head. My female head. The head that should never have been wrapped up inside another.

I may well go onto to SRS (that’s another foetal inversion to address), but I can’t cut a head off. There are ways I have learned, memories from most of a lifetime, that will always be there, and which are very useful. I have a dual perspective, which is a privilege few have. Maybe two heads are better than one. But the stolen rights have been given back, and the only head anyone will see now, though too old to be pretty, is at least in her rightful place.

Some people will always see me now as a two-headed monster, suffering a deformity or a disability. Some people will say ‘You can’t do that and still expect to be loved the same way!’ Some people will say that they could never love someone with two heads at all, at least not intimately. And the gaggle of kids across the street will always remember the woman that used to be a man and had to move away. It must be really confusing for them, but I hope one day it helps them accept someone they meet who, for no fault of their own, was born with two heads and simply needs love. And I hope they will discover that to love a transsexual person does not undermine their own sense of self.

With the greatest reluctance, I am just moving out of a partnership in which I had thought two heads were better than one. I still long for a partnership where love can be exchanged and life shared, and where complimentarities simply make life richer. I don’t know whether I shall ever find it, but at least I understand myself a whole lot better now as I head off into a new, single, life.


Footnote: I think in pictures, and intend no comparison or disrespect for conjoined twins, nor for people with dissociative (multiple) personality disorders. I am a single person, not dual, not split, and I have a single personality. My two heads are just a verbal image of gender identity, one inside another, in the same way that we speak of everyone’s male and female sides.

The column

  • Posted on September 15, 2012 at 8:50 am

There was once a beautiful domed space, full of light, airy and welcoming. Everyone who visited it liked it, remembered it and found it a safe place with always-open doors. It had withstood time well, weathered, mellowed and strong. As you entered, there was a peace, but it was a working space, and alive.

One thing marked it out, that after a while became less a wonder, more a curiosity. Attractive in its own way, it nevertheless got a bit in the way, like being stuck in a church or the wrong seat of the theatre, leaning this way and that to see. It cast shadows in strong light, came between people, and in the end was protected, lest the wear and tear of time and touch constantly coming in from outside should weaken it. Circled at first with a polite rope, then with outward-facing chairs like the bench around a village tree, it was almost venerated. It was an upstanding testament to strength and endurance.

This single alabaster column was the central feature, well-polished, reaching to the top of the dome, supporting the tracery that allowed so much light to stream in. It stood alone and strong, making the whole place safe. Every day its owner and occupant would sweep carefully around the base, replace the chairs, maybe sit down a while, secure.

Then one day (as in all stories like these) a stranger arrived, looked around, tilted her eyebrows and disappeared. A short while later, the owner clattered the dustpan in the bin, downed the broom, and sat, back to the column, in a stream of sunlight.


A soft voice from behind repeated the question.


The owner turned, but only saw the white, shiny, beautiful, familiar column.

‘Who’s there?’

Strange voices in familiar places are unnerving. The owner turned to the left, but when they turned back, an elegant woman was already quietly seated, eyes resting on the sunlit floor.

‘The column.’ she said. ‘Why the column?’

The owner’s eyebrows knitted a moment, puzzled at such a naïve question.

‘It holds the dome up. Without it, under its own weight, or the wind, the dome might fall in. And then there would be less light, I would fear the rain at night, and it would be cold!’

The woman raised her eyes to the dome, to the slender balcony running around its widest point.

‘Have you ever been up there?’ she asked, quietly. ‘I’m an engineer, so I can’t help myself! And when I came in just now, I was really curious.

‘You see, as I stepped inside, I was in a shadow, so all I saw was the white column, and then the sound of the place made me look up and see the wonderful dome you have. The place didn’t seem to be in disrepair, so the column clearly wasn’t a later addition. It was almost as if the place was built around it.’

She paused.

‘And so I went exploring, found the little tower and spiral stairs, and went up there.’

There was silence. The woman was not about to continue. It was as if her explanation was sufficient in its incompleteness. There was more; but the importance of it was not for her. She could wait, or she could leave, because she understood, and that was all that mattered. The sun turned, the shadow followed, like the hand of an enormous sundial marked on the wall. Eventually, the woman calmly rose, hitched her bag.

‘I must be going.’

The owner, confused now, protested. ‘I don’t understand …’

‘The stairs,’ the woman replied, looking her directly but kindly in the eyes. ‘You must climb the stairs. You may understand, but you must see for yourself.’ And she was gone.

Sometimes you wish strangers wouldn’t enter. Sometimes you wish they wouldn’t leave. And sometimes you just don’t know. The owner found the stairs, just one set of footprints in the dust, going up, coming down. The steps were unworn, but dark, and it was easy to become a little dizzy. Then light, gleaming from above, from the dome – and out onto a very narrow, very scary balcony with just the dome arching majestically from behind, up and over, its stone beams wider than they ever seemed from the ground. Strong, yet light; robust and with a detail never seen against the light.

The alabaster column rose like an eternal tree to its centre. Its top, too high to see, was fuzzy around the edges with the dust of years, the one part of it not shiny in the light. The dome arched over it, around it, but not touching it. The majestic white pillar of grandeur, so protected, so central, so essential – was a monument only to itself.

The elegant woman engineer never returned. Somewhere, the owner imagined, she would be lying full out under some light-filled dome, staring up into some wonderful, inspiring and free space, worshiping the arch, the dome, the perfectly spread load, the strong appearing so fragile.

As time passed by (as it does in stories like these), the chairs were displaced and the curiosity of the column became an annoyance. Research didn’t appear to give it an importance or a protection, and without notability, it became just an obstacle. And for anyone who asked why, there was never really a convincing answer, just a faith. But it was familiar, and if the owned kept moving around, there would always be a place in the sun.

All the owner needed was someone to sit down with them; someone who would look up, and see a magnificent alabaster column supporting a fragile dome, and feel safe.

Or trust. And a demolition team for a few hours to safely take the column away.


The worst part of stories like these is that they have a moral. Maybe a beautiful dome won’t fall in by pulling down a central pillar. It’s about daring to wipe your finger on the top, and convincing yourself that what you thought held everything together wasn’t quite what it seemed. It all depends on which is the more important: a pillar that looks important, or the freedom to gaze upwards in wonder, freedom and light. Belief – or trust.

Just thinking …

Friendship: welcome to the world of women

  • Posted on September 8, 2012 at 7:44 am

This is what a friend said to me recently. The context was friendships. She also said ‘the men don’t know what they’re missing!’ This is a time when I am realising that things really are different. The pressure is off relationships meaning too much, or suggesting the wrong things simply by being close. Maybe it’s a lot to do with the anti-androgens, but it is blessed relief in some ways, because depths to friendship are safe and unambiguous. The way I can relate to, talk to, share with other women, is one of the best supports that I have right now, and I really value it.

Today I shall view a couple of flats, looking for an affordable place to rent that will provide enough space and light to make a new start. I never had to think of that before. Every place I’ve viewed to buy for 30 years, seven times, has been a shared decision, a balance of preferences and vision of making a place home. They were never new starts, just mostly little steps up the property ladder. This one is down; quite a long way down! But it has made me reflect, prepare and adjust. What am I doing?

If I was a man leaving his wife, the conversations would be very different. But then men don’t do that much, unless one he or she is having an affair, or is being violent in some way. There has to be a big reason, otherwise food on the table and a free laundry service outweigh the benefits of really discovering themselves. Maybe that’s a bit unfair, but I think I have some inside track on this one!

I feel much more like a wife leaving: because the relationship is no longer doing what it should, and it is compromising my sense of self. Not my independence, not freedom to have an affair without guilt, not even an imbalance of contribution really. No, I am going with confidence that I can live my life better on my own and see where that leads me. I was here to be loved and to love, to give as much as to receive, and the transactions are now very limited. Have you ever been in an anechoic chamber? Maybe at least you’ve seen pictures of rooms without windows, completely lined with thousands of grey foam pyramids or cones. They are places where there must be no resonance, no echoes or reflections, so that the one source of sound can be isolated with clarity. It’s a bit like that. I am not in a silent place, but even my own sounds of love have stopped bouncing back. Sensory deprivation is a frighteningly uncomfortable experience.

I am leaving for somewhere probably quite small, and I try not to think of it too much as I run up and down stairs or out into the garden. But it will be a place where friends will come and that will echo again with the happiness of free association. Was writing that last phrase a Freudian slip? Wikipedia describes the purpose of free association as: ‘… not to unearth specific answers or memories, but to instigate a journey of co-discovery which can enhance the patient’s integration of thought, feeling, agency, and selfhood.’ Sounds about right to me.

I also feel that reverting-to-type thing coming on. If I was the husband leaving, I would recreate a bachelor pad, take the hurt out by eradicating feminine memories, show my blokeishness as a marker of availability. But no, my reversion-to-type has brought a wonderful realisation that I can have a really pretty bedroom for the first time, and things on my shelves that are a bit more girly than I would have had otherwise. A kind of femininity that is perhaps better expressed on its own, rather than competing in some way. My new space will resonate with my gender for the first time in my life.

And I may build furniture. I will know how to mend things, and fix a dripping tap; I will understand the fabric of my space as well as the spirit of it. I will worry as much about where to store my toolboxes as my cosmetics, and there will be growing redundancy from living in a maintained place where I don’t have to worry about the roof. It feels kind of wholesome when I think of it like that.

And it will be a space where all my girl friends will feel welcome, where ‘would you like to come in for a coffee?’ will have no overtones, and where stories will be told, and tears shed, and deeper friendships will evolve. It will be a space where I shall at times feel incredibly lonely, but nevertheless safe in my independence with friends. I’ve been welcomed into the world of women, to learn how women can be treated, spoken to, sometimes disregarded, become aware of a certain concession given by men, and learn new friendships that are protective, more mutual, more understanding. Welcome to the world of women.

The men don’t know what they’re missing. I am a woman who is moving on, not moving out.

Postscript: as I posted this entry and tagged it up for the search engines, I looked at the cloud of tags I’ve used so far, and realised I was having to add new ones, and that I was leaving some big ones behind. I hope this is a good sign! The friendship tag I think will be used a lot more.