You are currently browsing the archives for April 2013.
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Total recall

  • Posted on April 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Is it a blessing or a curse? I’m really bad at dates, maybe even at putting things in sequence. But I remember scenes, what was said, feelings, details, places. It’s the way my brain is wired. I may forget your birthday but not something you said or did. I don’t bear grudges though, or remember things that leave me angry; they are detached memories. You may have really upset me, and I will recall that, but it isn’t what I feel or think now.

It doesn’t make my memory perfect, and sadly it wasn’t ‘photographic’ for exams! I think it’s because I rethink and process things that mean something to me. That’s how I learned Greek vocabulary on the bus as a student: repeat and contextualise. But I was writing a poem this week out of a thought that tied together photographs, children and memories. As one does …

Photographs are taken to capture something meaningful, and that’s why we keep them. They bring back memories of more than that fraction of a second.

Children, even when fully adult, contain within them the memory of their conception, birth, nurture and release. This is why your own children are so different from anyone else’s.

Memories, are like both mental children, given birth – nurtured and matured, and also like photographs – captures of a story and a reminder of many other things.

All three are joined, in light and dark, happiness and sadness, continuation and closure.


My sister and I remember family photo albums, mounted with corners on black paper, some titled in white pencil, with grained-board covers and silk tassels to bind them. They were valuable enough to be kept in polythene bags, but not so valuable that our Mum threw them out years ago. I wonder what memories she didn’t want to keep or bequeath? There are no other pictures of our childhood. That was some time ago, and now she has still to meet her un-remembered daughter for the first time whom she has only seen in a photograph.

This week I tried to be helpful in preparing for divorce by drawing up a list of worldly goods, including my family photo albums. I suggested I had the negatives, in case I change my mind (it’s OK, there’s no blackmail in mind!) about saying my wife can have them all. They represent happy times and togetherness, before I lost my family to rejection. To me, they are pictures of contingent love, and that hurts. I have children, and I don’t even know where one of them lives. I have memories, but they are detached from my emotions now. They are reconceptualised, like Copernicus’ skies.


Nothing reminds you so much of your past, where you were, what it was like, or of your past aspirations and hopes. They sometimes brought directness and honesty into your life with their naivety, they made you laugh and drove you up the wall – only to dissolve it by lying on the floor and enacting ‘driving up the wall’. Yes, there is a photo …

Children capture your past and keep it, and remind you as they repeat your mistakes, bring new challenges and question everything you thought you remembered. They are yours, but also someone else’s, so inevitably they join other things together.


As unreliable as children, and as uncertain as a photo with no caption on the back or sequence in the album, memories are changeable, but often all we have. The most vivid are moments with meaning: developing love, profound emotions, the birth of children, achievement after struggle, moments of emotional risk, times when you suddenly realised things were not as you thought. Difficult conversations and lost friendships. The last time your daughter gave you a hug.

Memories could have a whole blog to themselves, possessive as they are, sometimes demanding as children, and imprinted through exposure to light and dark.

The poem

And so I wrote the poem, left it to marinate, and came back to stir it up and lay it out very differently and visually. This is something that ‘happened’ to a poem I wrote on suicidal feelings, and which made it really suddenly a lot more powerful, where the placing and spreading added as much as the words when read across the page. If you appreciate good poetry you may understand this, but basically I am saying you can read this in several ways. First, as unbroken lines like any other poem, but then in vertical or horizontal fragments, which may not be wholly grammatical, but as fragments they still have sense and meaning. It’s slightly holographic – and not very amenable simply to reading as performance! This one isn’t as complex as that, but read it across first, then try bits down, or at random.

Here is Recall as it stands at the moment (never say poem is really finished).


  • Posted on April 28, 2013 at 11:51 am


are like children that are memories
with birth times and wide eyes
exposed to light and shadows
memories joined to memories
are like memories that are photographs
that were once of our family
exposed to happiness and sadness
times joined to times
are like photographs that are children
wide-eyed free and happy
exposed forever as we once were
light shining onto light
photographs children memories
being recalled are as one exposure of our
longing and open eyes


2013 © Andie Davidson

I want my kissing gate back

  • Posted on April 21, 2013 at 11:32 am

It was never a peck on the cheek. Not once. Every kiss was a kiss, fully meant, and communicating. Well at least for me – and until it was yucky for my wife to kiss a woman like me. That’s why it has been so hard to live in a world without any kisses, that’s why my patient black dog, sitting beside me every day, feels she has something to wait for and remind me of. From several times a day to never, is tough. Woof!

I remember our last walk together in every detail. My memory is like that. It was along the river Cuckmere in East Sussex, and quite by chance it was a signposted walk: ‘The Kissing Gate Walk’. I think if I had been asked to find a final cruel irony, this would have been it, but it was accidental, and we had never been there before. Throughout our 32 years together, kissing gates on walks had always been just that: the gate you can’t allow the next person through until they have kissed you over the gate. And not one was a peck on the cheek.

But not this time. I realised with a real grief, that kissing gates are unlocked by sex, and for us, with penis-powered locks. And whilst I may in principle have had the key, it was not going to fit any more. I thought they were loving gates, but no, I was wrong. To kiss over a gate now, would have made my wife regard herself as lesbian, and for all the love we had known and shared for so long, that was such a complete turn-off, kissing gates were over for good.

Yesterday I went for a long walk and passed through a number of kissing gates, remembering several things, not just lost facility. I was recalling that going for a walk together was as two people who cared about and for each other, a companionship, a partnership, an intimate friendship. In fact, I had walked that way with other friends, and enjoyed it as much. And so, I have no doubt has and does my wife. She may fall in love again (I hope she does) and kiss her man over a gate again.

But when someone you have loved shows their gender identity, which has been there all along, to be unexpected, we come back to a theme of the early days of this blog: that when what you are depends on another, their change changes you. So to love me would make my lifelong partner a lesbian? And if by definition it would, what is the impact of that? That ‘I was never one of those, and cannot see or allow myself to be like that’? Do you really have to be different to love? How different is it really?

Love and sexuality: what is it that changes?

What is the psychological impact of someone you love apparently changing your sexuality? Does it? Is it about you? Or is it also that awful realisation that your ‘husband’ is a ‘lesbian’. What are they expecting?! Confusing or what! Is love seated in a gender that gives you your sexuality? Or is sexuality innate and fixed, so that you can only love providing the beloved complies with that self-perception? Why is it suddenly ‘yuk’ to kiss the person you’ve loved so long, not because they are suddenly physically different (they are not), but because that’s how they wish to be understood?

It’s all questions. I have some insight, because I have had to question my sexuality. I respond as a woman. I think I always have, but now, if a man treats me as a woman (say with flowers) I get the same warm feeling any woman would. Does that mean I had an innate homosexual latency? Am I now hetero for the first time? Where on the gender spectrum can I envisage greatest comfort in terms of a prospective kissing-gate relationship? To be honest I was surprised to have the feelings, but I feel very much more comfortable with the love of a woman. Not because I ‘was a man’ or because I conformed to that expectation and resented it (ie reject it) but because I want to be loved as a woman loves, not as a man does.

And so back to: ‘my husband expects me to be a lesbian?’ Or ‘What? My husband is a lesbian?’ (the concept of male lesbian is common in trans* circles). My wife felt that to allow me to remain intimate while growing into a new gender identity would make everything different.

Now for me to imagine kissing a man over a gate is something completely new. They would respond differently, maybe dismiss it as silly, or be a bit awkward or inept; maybe embarrassed and a bit ‘blokey’. It would be a very different and new experience; I would not know the response of this person, and would have to learn the interpretation of their gestures, the style of their kiss, the feelings behind the awkwardness, and of their own learning of me. Different, new, strange, learning from the beginning.

I never imagined that to continue making love in the same old way would be seen as so alien, just because I’d had hair removed from my chest and face. I never imagined that my touch, my loving, that everything I gave in intimacy with fingers, tongue, kisses, would become repulsive, shutting down all the familiar responses, because I was doing nothing different at all: only loving as I always had. But the perception of what it implied my wife should actually like was enormous: ‘I can love you doing that to me as a man, even with my eyes closed, but if you do the same thing to me as a woman, even with my eyes closed, it’s yukky.’ I can imagine a condition in which my body hair became naturally lost. She would not have rejected me. I can imagine untreatable impotence. She would not have rejected me. I can imagine a dreadful accident that damaged or severed my genitals. She would not have rejected me. Nothing emasculating would have led to the yuk factor. Because emasculation is not feminisation.

In living my true identity, the in-bred perception was that to continue to receive my love, and to let me into intimate spaces, she had to know that whatever might change about me, emasculating to every degree, I still identified as a man. Because to identify as a woman would require a change in her self-perception that was unacceptable. We often went through the argument: ‘What if it was me wanting to be a man?’ Of course I can’t answer that, because my whole view of gender is quite different (and I’m a woman!), but also for me, what – if she continued to be intimate in the same way, and to love me – would really be different?

Change and meaning

’The whole dynamic of a relationship and sexuality changes’, I was reminded. I accept this, but everything around us is changing all the time and we live by adaptation. If love is stronger than emasculation, why is it not stronger than feminisation? My question is why love has to change, and my answer was that if love is based always on the kind of attraction you began with in your teens, then your relationship is based more on sex than on love of the other. And I don’t actually want that any more; in fact I shall never accept it again. I want only to be loved as myself.

I have this image, that what I want most for my future in terms of relationships, is to find someone who wants to dance the dance of life with me. Someone committed by an idea of love that is about enabling the other, and with whom I can grow and learn.

I want love to dance. I want my kissing gates back.

And so we are back at kissing gates, and that awful last walk on a gorgeous sunny-blue-sky day. Kissing gates aren’t for kissing at all. They are to keep cows from straying into fields where they should not be; maybe it’s clover, or a crop, or just grass recovering. It is for their good. Do you like cows? You see a bunch of them all turning their heads towards you as you approach; do you feel threatened? These are all females, and what they do as their cycles rotate, is called ‘bulling’. They mock-mount each other. Does this make them lesbian? It comes naturally, and they have no scruples about it.

The irony was not lost on me, and I wrote this poem about it at the time, which sums up the whole thing quite nicely: Kissing gate. It’s about cows, lesbian identity, fear, and crap.

Kissing gate

  • Posted on April 21, 2013 at 11:32 am

The rustic V gives no room
to rucksack or handbag, presses
cleavage like some unwelcome grope—
I cannot say ‘excuse me’ as I ease,
scrape, through, out, step back

then grasp the rail, hold it closed
until a kiss unlocks it. Instead
I walk away, take eyes, take mouth—
I cannot say ‘kiss me’ as I sigh,
escape, screw turn, step on

to keep cows safe, as if they might drift
to fields unready for their mouths,
choose to walk through them, not round—
lesbians all, bulling, mounting
in absence, climbing backs.

Kissing gates used to work so well,
powered as they were by a part of me,
these eyes still close in expectation—
I lose the kiss, excuse myself;
a cow backs down, she lifts her tail.

I do not turn to the rustic creak
or the girls who giggle, squeeze the V,
bar the gate, embrace its railing—
kiss without passion or excuse
unfolding the path with laughter.


2012 © Andie Davidson

Black dogs, feeling suicidal, and reasons to be strong

  • Posted on April 19, 2013 at 10:53 pm

OK, so this is going to be the most sensitive and difficult blog thus far. I feel I do want to cover it, because I’m trying to observe my whole experience, and by doing so hope to help others either on a similar journey, or with a loved one, find their way through with least damage and most hope. I haven’t been able to address it until now, but I feel safe.

First of all, I am not writing in a qualified or advisory capacity, and if you recognise you need help, don’t delay. Talk to a trusted friend. Samaritans will never feel you are wasting their time, even if you are only a bit scared. Do it; get help.

We are probably all aware now of the appalling statistics that trans* people as a group suffer way and above a higher suicide rate than any other minority. Approaching half have at least attempted suicide, and maybe three-quarters covers those who have thought about it. The actual stats don’t matter, the proportions speak well enough.

First up, let me position myself here. No-one wants ‘suicidal’ on their medical record if they can help it. No-one wants to admit being there if they can avoid it. There is even some kind of stigma in this, and with gender dysphoria already viewed and diagnosed under the heading of mental disorders (and it assuredly is not such), there is psychological pressure to be less than open. It took me a while to even talk about it outside therapy. But it is important, because I was there, and there were reasons.

After transition

It was three months after transition that my worst moment came, and thankfully I was already going to regular therapy, still hoping to rescue a marriage, and was helped just when I needed it. For a brief period I stepped closer and closer to the brink. I knew exactly what I would do; how, and why just didn’t matter. There was nothing else meaningful or better, to be honest, and the whole thing felt incredibly easy to do. Maybe if I had actually prepared for the moment I would have come to my senses, or chickened out. But at that point, there was no other meaningful future and nothing better. No; I did not think of the effect on anyone else. This was a place without answers because it was a place without questions. It offered an emptiness. There was no ‘next’. It was a placeless place, utterly devoid of anything. And therefore an obvious option for escape.

There is no need to elaborate my plans, the important thing now is that I didn’t do anything. I did work it through, I did bear the unbearable, and I even promised my therapist to keep myself safe. The way I put it is that I stood on the edge, but the wind blew just hard enough in my face to overcome the vertigo. I am thankful, and I feel confident now that I shall not easily find myself there again.


OK, so what happens to trans* people that we can find ourselves in such profound despair?

Many things, and for you it will be different from me, but let’s see if we can talk about some and pull them back into the light to see them properly.

1. Being trans is being different, really different

Once you know you are trans*, wherever on the spectrum, it isn’t at all like having to come out as L, G, or B. This isn’t just your sexuality, which isn’t overt for everyone to know, and about which you can choose to be discreet. You have to face seeing if you are right and comfortable with your newly-realised (perhaps uncertain) identity in a very obvious way. You cannot start living in a new gender role without presenting differently and trying, with no experience, to be unnoticeable. You know you will be obvious, be an object of opinion, and have to deal with a lot of explanation, gossip, back-chat, even real opposition and cruelty, or public – even physical – abuse.

Pressure: Coming out trans* is like being one of the audience, picked out, hauled up and thrust onto the stage in the middle of a play without a script or costume. Can you face it? What will the audience do? Are you strong enough?

2. Your family will not understand and will reject you

The seat of all your security, all your assured love, often resides with at least a few direct family members. Your children? Your spouse? Your parents and siblings? How can you explain to them in a way that you know they will all come with you, embrace you and offer help and support? The sad fact, and we all know this (which is why there is such fear), is that families do not understand. Some do, but many don’t. However close your family feels, however devoted, it is as unpredictable as a lottery.

Pressure: Who are you prepared to lose, what are the consequences, including your financial future, where you will live, what will you do? Is this a lottery you are ready to play?

3. People will not understand, life at work will be hell

When a work colleague turns up in a gender presentation you haven’t seen them in before, with a different name, and frankly getting a lot of it wrong, people are going to talk. They will have prejudices and opinions, many may be directly rude and unco-operative, others will simply be confused and uncomprehending. Even those who ‘accept’ your ‘decision’, you know will do so quite superficially.

Pressure: This is your livelihood, your status and social role. What if you feel forced from work, or can’t cope mentally and get pushed out? How can equality and diversity law really protect you except in a theoretical way? For all the stories of people who transition successfully at work, this is another straw on the camel’s back. Can you really go through with this?

4. If wrong-gender living has at times been hell, how do you know that this is going to be better?

Most of us at some time express the conviction that transition in the end was neither a decision nor a choice, but was thrust on us by the way we are and there being no other resolution in order to find peace within ourselves. But what if we get it wrong and want to go back? What if there is some other underlying reason for the way we feel? What if getting clinical attention is difficult? What if you have a blocking GP? And you hear of the inordinate wait that others experience getting seen. Can you face everything at once: being so different, thought of as bizarre, rejected by some of your family, probably your spouse, being constantly misunderstood and disbelieved, and all the while struggling to learn basic gender behaviours you should have learned long ago in growing up?

Pressure: Just because you are trans* does not make you strong, or even determined. It can leave you feeling quite helpless, undefended and exposed.

5. Will anyone ever love me again?

This is my personal black dog. It is the most difficult bit of this blog entry, so I must be careful.

Are you consigned to being neither one thing nor another, never again to be desirable or wanted, to be anybody’s friend but nobody’s lover? You know you may be a wonderful and loving person, you know what you can give, but if even the one who has loved you so much, and you love, rejects you, then who could ever want you ever again? Doesn’t everyone else just want someone normal?

Pressure: Stepping out of the circle of love, affection and intimacy is like walking into Siberia in a t-shirt in winter. Can anyone really, seriously consign themselves to that personal isolation? Will you only ever be wanted by seekers of the exotic, the curious and intrusive? What kind of cis-person can you possibly find? Mix that with a newly-ambiguous sexuality, and you can feel very lost and isolated indeed.

Honest answers

These points skim the surface, because they describe the main elements of the average situation. They are the plausible realities that for too many are very true, but go nowhere near the raw and pressing emotion and real psychological pressure. You can’t come out one day and take a holiday the next. Suddenly it is the deep end, not of a swimming pool, but the sea, rough and surrounded by rocks. It is too easy to be overwhelmed. But you don’t have to be. Let’s take it all to pieces and see what you can do.

A. Being different

Being ‘different’ is unavoidable, but there are many resources online to help you, lots on YouTube and dedicated serious trans* websites. You can find moral support with many unseen friends around the world even through Facebook. I would advise against anything more ‘personal’ though until you are really firmly on your new feet.

In many places there will be an accessible support group. They aren’t all good, and if you are trans* rather than a cross-dresser, make sure you don’t just get the group that meets ‘for fun and relaxation’. Do your best, because you will improve, and you may well be very surprised by the help you get buying cosmetics or even clothes. Bear with the awkward bits, like finding prosthetics, or wigs if you need to. You may feel you have to go to what you have regarded previously as less savoury places.

Avoid places where you feel exposed and uncomfortable until you feel better prepared and settled. If you know late clubs on a Saturday night are risky, don’t go. Maybe you do love clubbing, and maybe you see no reason why you shouldn’t. Just be fair on yourself, especially while you feel new and vulnerable. Ease your pressure. Above all, get used to being ordinary in your gender, and don’t overdo dress, makeup, mannerisms etc.

Learn to accept that ‘normal’ is a very arbitrary and narrow definition, and that you are part of the variability, not some freak. You are not alone. Go and find the stats about sex and gender, and be surprised. You aren’t so different after all, you’re just a late learner. Be kind on yourself. You should start to feel very ordinary after a few months’ commitment to living as you feel is right.

It’s OK to be acceptably different. Really.

B. Family

Every member of your family is an individual, with their own social conditioning, life stories, opinions and philosophies. They are not all your family because they love you. Children are children and parents are parents, and so on. Only a spouse can be presumed to have any discretionary love, and that love may not be placed where you thought it was. You have to let people be people, even if they are your family. Believe me when I say you will find truer friends than you have known as you become established, with or without your family.

But all too often there is loss. And you can do nothing about it. So you are trans*? Your partner is cis-hetero? It may be the worst choice of anyone’s life, between authenticity of self and love from the other, but with which will you die happier? I know the answer to that; you must just believe it could be true, until you do. Being true to yourself above everything else reveals a lot more about your prior assumptions than you can imagine. How you see your need for status, recognition, or for possessions and friends may well radically change. So long as you can find a way forward to being secure enough, so long as you can actually survive, you will be surprised how being comfortable with your gender outweighs everything else and keeps you going.

Yes. You can lose your entire family, and survive. You matter, and anything that is contingent on you living a life that is untrue to yourself, whoever it is for, is not worth it; however enjoyable, comforting and secure it used to feel. You will grieve massively, but you can also learn to let go of it and move on. Really.

Believe in your own inner strength. After all, you have a deeper and wider view of life than cis people do.

C. Working life

If you are employed, you are protected in your employment from harassment, discrimination and prejudice. There is a lot of employment law and good practice on your side. Accept, therefore, that you are perfectly entitled to live and work as you wish to, in terms of identity. No-one has the right to expect you to do anything else, and they are not bigger or more important than you. Someone in a senior role has no more right than an ignorant sexist young person in the workshop, and if they bother you, you are in the right and action should be taken. Know and feel that you are protected, and believe in yourself.

Things do go wrong at work, but many people transition perfectly successfully in their jobs and are surprised by the level of respect they get. You will probably have to live with pronoun mistakes, jokes, overhearing others talk about you, and having to remind or correct people. Just do it all with dignity and integrity, and if you can, good humour. Other people need understanding too, and they haven’t done this before either.

Do not for one moment think that your gender status makes you inferior in any way. Rather, come to understand that this is a gift and a privilege, to experience life so broadly and openly, and be able to show that to others.

D. Frying pans and fire

Your progress and confidence will be hugely helped by knowing that the anxieties, fear, self-hate, simply not belonging, are over. Never deny how you have lived so far, because it will always be your history. Make peace with it. Life will change, as will some of the people you know and associate with. Embrace the new and don’t hang onto any old patterns that don’t help you settle. You will be aware of your lack of training in presentation in a different gender, but remember that confidence is nine-tenths of making everyone else secure with you. So assume your right to be yourself, and your right to be as present as everyone else, and claim your space in the world. Just because ‘you are still you’, doesn’t mean people won’t treat and see you differently; there will be swings and roundabouts, so go with the flow rather than arguing and fighting. You can do without it at this time.

A new life is quite possible. It might not be easy, but it is there. If you got this far, you are a self-aware survivor; believe it. So enjoy all the fun and good bits as much as you can and never, ever, feel guilty about it.

E. New love

Here I pat my own black dog on the head, and treat her as a patient, faithful friend. All I can say right now is that even if I never find an intimate friend again, I am still far happier as I am. But practically speaking, give this one time. You don’t always work out your own sexuality clearly or quickly when you move into a different hormonal regime: be prepared for surprises. So unless you want to invite hurts, don’t head straight for dating sites. You could be lucky of course, but it’s up to you. I found that I re-evaluated a lot of my previous thoughts about loving and being loved. I lost a love that I’d invested everything in, only to find it was contingent on being a man, being a husband; not being an individual, a partner, friend, companion and lover.

So find your true values, explore then and confirm them. Then live by them.

Above all, learn to trust that life is about belonging, being part of a much bigger world, seen and unseen, and that your survival is not just about your own capabilities. Much will be unexpected, so learn to live with gratitude for everything that makes you feel either where you want to be in yourself, or one step further towards it.

Dealing with despair

I started with the darker thoughts as a congregation that can bring you to despair. If they don’t or didn’t, that is good, but for too many it can get too much to bear, or seem too impossible a journey to see through. It can take you by surprise, as it did me. No-one understands suicidal thoughts. They are intense and private. But don’t let them grab hold, because there really are other ways of seeing things, and other escapes from your thoughts. You know when you are being pulled down; find something you can always hang onto when you need it.

I can show you that by breaking it down, each difficult part can on its own be seen to be survivable, and you can believe me or not, because all I have is my own experience. I can urge you to find someone to share your fears with, whom you can trust and who will listen. But really I just want to say don’t be overwhelmed. Your identity is your right, not the gift and permission of others, and there are very many of us the same. Yes we are different, but it can also in the end be experienced as a privilege. No-one can tell you who or what you are, that you are more or less worthy, so believe in yourself. You are a survivor, a thriver, but if you need help, please go and get it.

As a postscript I want to add some invaluable advice my friend Sam was given by a psychotherapist: when you feel like you should be dead, it’s because something in you needs to die, not the whole of you ̵ just a part of you. Sit with the feelings and work out what it is. Then let go of it and wait for the resurrection of new life within.