You are currently browsing the archives for December 2012.
Displaying 6 - 10 of 14 entries.

Shut up. I’m just drunk.

  • Posted on December 23, 2012 at 11:08 am

I was slightly chastised this week by an old friend who has greater grief and hurt than I, in her life, and about whom I care very much. I can’t remember when we last met, but I’m glad we can still be straight and not just get miffed. It was a chastisement I have given myself too, when with other people.

The trouble is, people are curious and I am very open. I know that I have had it very easy indeed on this gender journey, and that for many it really isn’t that straightforward. So if I can be confident and normal and direct about it, then others will also find it normal, and if they then meet someone else like me, they will pass on that understanding and be supportive instead of bemused or worse. So I talk about myself. And rather too much sometimes. Am I listening as much as I want them to? Probably not, and I have to learn that. So my New Year resolution, if I am to have one (apart from getting fitter – again) is to shut up. And listen.

This Christmas required giving some explanation to The Christmas Card List. That longer list of people stretching back to where I/we studied, lived, worked. Yes, those people you largely forget about except for Christmas because you hardly ever see them anymore. But it felt important because one was my best man (definitely the better now!), and others used to be good friends when kids were all the same small age. So despite Lynn Truss’ deprecation of the ‘round robin’ newsletter, I told the story my way, of why cards were coming from me separately, and of the big change. And the breakup, and no recriminations. Maybe this was my last big shout, because that’s everyone in the know now. Except the tax man (yes, I do still think of him as a man, so I’m sorry if you work at HMRC and are a woman, especially if you are trans in the HMRC, no offence intended. HMRC alone will insist that I am male to the bitter end (my GRC) and I really do resent that.) So by now there is no-one left to inform, and just one to correct.

That should mean I can shut up, and listen more.

This week was also the Christmas meals week, and the opportunity to wear my best ever Monsoon chiffon dress. In spite of awful weather on Wednesday night I braved it, and felt amazing. Wet at first, but chiffon dries quite quickly. I had a lovely night, and yes, people were, shall we say, free to ask. I didn’t mind, I rarely do, because again I want people to know that I feel as normal as they do, if a bit more self-aware (not self-conscious) than some. It has been a huge change, and the first experience for most, of a trans* person. But we talked about a lot else besides, and I had a truly lovely night.

You know how it is at these occasions. Well you do if you’re driving, because as you stay sober, others dissolve into a happy or sad or uber-loving haze. There was quite a bit of happy-drunk, and as I came away, I realised I too was a bit drunk. But I was actually feeling drunk with happiness. I was finally ending a year in which I had started not knowing quite what lay ahead, with a great deal of unhappiness and terrible fears of consequences. In that year I had finally had to face myself, and grasped that the final choice, and the only real choice I ever had, was to be between being true to myself and keeping the love of my lifelong companion, lover and friend. It was the year, too, where I came to understand just how easy suicide can be. I looked over the edge and the wind blew back just hard enough to overcome the vertigo. It was a year in which all my fears came to meet me, and all but one were resolved. All but one.

So why should I not be drunk with happiness?

A second Christmas dinner, and I was moving around freely with 60 other people with whom I work, just being me. Being normal. And with this wonderful realisation that I have made it, that I am safe, that I am well on the way to resolving the deep need to correct my defects. And in arriving here, I can now shut up about it and get on with life. I will always have the same his-story, and I can’t escape that. I hope I will always be an advocate for trans* people of all kinds, and a help to some. But the truth about who I am is finally, and completely, out, and those who are happy with that are happy, and those who aren’t will have to catch up as best they can or be left out.

Happiness and sadness aren’t like matter and antimatter; they don’t annihilate each other, and it isn’t really a balance. It’s a cohabitation of aspects of reality. My sadness would never be there if there hadn’t been happiness, so you could argue that in sum, there must be more happiness than sadness in my life. And pain? Every week I lie under the needle of electrolysis for an hour, focussing on ‘this is just a single hair’ so the pain is made tiny. Friends passing through surgery remind me that a fair amount of pain lies ahead there too, but not for a while. And there is painful relationship surgery right up ahead as well. So I have one surgery I can’t wait for, another I simply hate to have to do. And that one will be a lot more private because it’s only half about me and must remain as amicable as possible, even though I know I will feel somewhat clinically disposed of.

So this year you can chastise me if you like. Tell me to shut up. I’m probably just drunk – on happiness.

Christmas card

  • Posted on December 20, 2012 at 8:33 pm

I want this card filled.
I want it empty. Just my name.

A Christmas Valentine.
My heart. In a folded page.


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!

It still works!

  • Posted on December 9, 2012 at 10:10 am

One phrase that will always be with me, and which characterises the family life I used to have, is ‘it still works!’ Coined by my son, it was frequently used in our home. When we thought some battered toy, item of furniture, even clothing, or appliance, was beyond it – no, it still worked. There was no need for a new one, no replacement. So what, that it looked well knocked-about and repaired many times? What this really meant was that the item was well-loved and familiar, and as such was never over-protected. Instead of being preserved, it had been well used.

Closer to my son ’s heart than mine, this week I heard that three Pacific-class steam locomotives in the speed-record ‘Mallard’ family were coming back to the UK from the USA for restoration. Then, that some 60 Spitfire aircraft are to be recovered in the Philippines, where they have lain buried in crates since the second world war. Yes; they still work. Or they shall do, once fixed up.

Yesterday I was sitting thinking in more poetic mood, about museums. Brightly-painted machines that used to work: not just function, but do work. Some even seem to still work, driven several times a day perhaps by compressed air in place of steam, no longer attached to gears, or belt and pulleys and things that cut, beat, polished, drilled, pumped, lifted or moved. They used to be somewhere, in the sense of really being, not just turning over. In the days they were used for purpose, they were polished and oiled, cared for, but pushed to limits. If parts wore out, if paint flaked, if oil gunked up, they were repaired. This engine has a cracked boiler? A gasket has blown? A bearing has gone? It still works. It just needs one of these or one of those.

And costume exhibitions in museums. Do you ever wonder who was the last person to wear that dress, petticoat, hat, shoes? Which lasted longer, the person or the vestment? Was it laundered and put away, to be found later, or retrieved, as it were, from the laundry basket, as last worn? And then you notice the tears and repairs. The lace with overlays, replacement not-quite-matching design, seams taken in or let out, shoes with multiple leather patches. And you recognise the value of clothing, loved and useful items that still worked, that were worth not replacing.

And yet we also know the feeling when we learn that some monstrosity of a building achieves listed status! OK, so it was an example of architecture of its era, maybe the first, or paradigmatic, but why?! It never worked well, it was a bad design, a bad concept and it was awful building construction. A reminder? Surely not because ‘it still works’.

Everything has its day. Even Mallard, even the Spitfire, the petticoat and bustle, the concept-built block of concrete flats, the button-boots. Maybe it would still work, but no-one wants it to. Not any more. We might want to show it still could, but it will last longer in the memory to be in a museum. And we want it to. We also recognise the slippers that have been comfortable so long, the favourite bra that just fitted better than the rest, the coat with the cuffs that are telling you respectability matters as much as warmth.

And so it is that what still works is a function of familiarity and commitment, with fitness for purpose. A well-loved bear, behind glass, is still a sadness, whereas whalebone stays are a relief. The analogy I am struggling with is, of course, obvious. Am I digging up, preserving, restoring, replacing or placing behind glass – or indeed archiving out of sight – the most precious things about which I was still saying: ‘it still works!’? Right now, there is the wonder of the well-oiled machine, the grace of the Spitfire, the familiar comfort of the petticoat, the familiar skyline – and the sadness in the bear. But I am feeling some relief about the whalebone and realising some things just didn’t ever fit. It relates to me, it relates to my marriage, my one big love affair.

All these other things have been replaced by something that works, and works better. I am hoping the same is true about love and partnership.