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The price of simple things

  • Posted on December 15, 2012 at 10:57 am

However delicate this filigree
this silver, iron or gold –

however fine and beautiful this glass,
its colours making sunlight speak –

however fleet and bright this flute
edging silver in sibilant song –

you shall not see or feel the fire,
the furnace finding them from stone.

Their faces and voices all felt fair,
warm in a way their cold touch cannot tell

set from white heat, bled to life,
beaten, drawn and mastered

into taut treasures that tell
stories, songs and longings

of long, long ago. Ore and wonder
as old as their ancestral home.

Trauma and high energy are
the price of simple things

the rocks that make our hills,
crumbled, melted into light.


2011 © Andie Davidson

Charing Cross

  • Posted on December 15, 2012 at 12:08 am

For trans people living in the south (no, I said trans not trains!) the name Charing Cross carries a lot of emotion and feeling. I also remember it from the book 84 Charing Cross Road, but of course the place in question is in Hammersmith. And today, in the rain. A lot. You first learn of it as a place many (and some very well known) people have traipsed their years away to, and found resolution for their gender identity. Then you realise that it is part of West London Mental Health Trust, responding to gender dysphoria (or rather the physiological state of having a brain in one gender and a body in another) as a mental disorder. OK, since DSM V dropped the disorder bit, it isn’t that, but it is still in the mental health diagnostic manual, not in the physiological/hormonal disorders manual.

And so you are placed in the hands of psychiatrists. I saw my second psychiatrist today. When I see my third, for a Charing Cross second opinion, they will finally draw the conclusion that I am of perfectly sound (female) mind – and that the reason I have spent so much money, time and emotion (and pain), come to the edge of suicide (and backed away), lost pretty much all I hold dear, and live alone happier than I could have imagined, supporting myself in a full-time job where I have only ever presented as a woman – is because my body developed with male attributes while my brain didn’t.

Frustrating. People aren’t always as clear as I am, and some transition partially, retreat, reconsider, transition again, have doubts, cling onto things they feel more important, and maybe never decide to physically transition. But they do this after many years, not just after a short while. And so the conversation online today has gone over the value of what is called the ‘real life test’ or more accurately now, ‘real life experience’ (RLE). Basically it means you prove, through witnesses like employment, and people who can vouch for you, that you have lived exclusively in a gender not assigned at your birth, for two whole years.


And it is a dangerous frustration. For a mental health approach, insisting on persisting with the cause of all the distress, indeed placing it all under some unreasonable pressure and risk, hardly seems conducive to good mental health. Why? Because people like me seek out medications before they are available on prescription. Losing hair matters when you are older, and entering puberty matters when you are young. These things are irreversible. Nowadays, young people can have their puberty arrested. But no-one is going to give me anti-androgens while my hair recedes. But also because we have to go many months without seeing anyone at all, during which time we are given the task of unsupported RLE. I was asked today if I would like help with my voice. Of course I bloody would! ‘Sir’ on the phone is immensely hurtful, especially when you have to explain. And yet you can’t even get voice therapy until the third psychiatrist has approved your status as genuinely being the gender you are already living in, for one year.

OK; so you pay for your own laser, electrolysis, prosthetics, wigs, voice therapy, counselling, hormones (this is not a personal endorsement of the practice, just that so many feel compelled to) etc. and do your best, while your world is collapsing around you – and call it real life experience. I suppose if you get through that, you get through anything. But not everyone is as strong or resilient as I am, and I wonder how many ‘fail’, suffer or perhaps die along they way because it becomes too much. I am not alone in finding that I may well be able to obtain my Gender Recognition Certificate and change my birth certificate gender, before I can complete surgery to correct things.

I do understand that for some, being given time and space is important for self-understanding. Let’s not rush anything; maybe you aren’t completely sure, or able to be. But some of us really are. Waiting for treatment is wasted treatment time.

Is this the best way for the health professionals to make sure they aren’t sued for passing anyone for surgery who isn’t prepared to sign an indemnity instead? Yes, I would sign in blood that I would rather die as a woman within a year, than have to live ever again, and for however long, as a healthy man.


Real Life Experience


Could it be anything other than Life?

Is life ever either not real or not experienced?

Do we ever experience anything other than real life?

I have been tested. For around 40 years I did not know what was wrong, why I was an outsider among men, why I wanted what I hated myself for. That was real. Very real, and very uncomfortably real. At times it tore me apart inside, it was that real. And it was life, and it was my experience. Ultimately, I failed at ‘living as a man’.

For around 18 months I tried to live a dual gendered life. To hang onto the person I loved most in all the world, to a partnership I valued above anything else, to a shared life that was safe and mutually supportive. I tried. It was life, and it was my experience, and again, ultimately, I failed. That’s two tests, thoroughly lived and experienced that could have destroyed me. What else can I try? Supposing as a woman I fail again. What else could I be, without losing reality, losing life and therefore ending experience?

This is not Real Life Experience for me. This is what happens when all the tests are already done and over. I failed at all the other options, whereas this one has given me a sense of reality, of living, that I never knew I was allowed to experience. I know what I need to complete this picture, and that knowledge gets harder to live with, without resolution, each day. And yet, without any support, I must continue, waiting for appointments for opinions, for treatment, whilst doing my best to convince the world that I am not forever in a transition, but really what I say I am.

There is nothing else. That’s what makes me so … Charing Cross!