You are currently browsing the archives for June 2014.
Displaying 6 - 8 of 8 entries.

Light at the end

  • Posted on June 14, 2014 at 2:21 pm
Are you just realising that you are transgendered? It may be a joy for some. For most of us it is unstoppable and scary. What are you going to do, at the point where it seems unmanageable, and potentially starting on a long journey with a lot of change. I never said it was easy, but here’s a view from the other end of the tunnel.

October 2010, and a man in smart-casual clothes and close-cropped grey, receding hair is sorting through the sale rack in a quality store. He’s forgotten about being surreptitious, and given up thinking about how this seems. He is buying his first skirt and feels he just isn’t going to stop himself any more. In the back of his mind, he knows something is changing forever. A recess of sadness is a shadow on the relief he feels, because there is no way he is going to be able to explain this. At this point he doesn’t even know that he is transgender, that there is a diagnosis for this, that it is normal for people born like him. That there are thousands of people within a few miles radius of this store, who were born the same.

He will go home and hide his purchases and wait for a coming weekend when family will be away. His daughter and wife are having a girls’ weekend in London. He is defined out of his own family. And he will be a girl for the weekend. There is no fantasy or fetish attached to this, and in the end he will confess. That he bought a skirt and jumper, spent a couple of days wearing them. That he simply felt perfect. And will realise with joy and horror that ‘he’ is not appropriate. The realisation will come tumbling in, and very quickly ‘transgender’ will enter his vocabulary. He will gradually begin talking about being both genders, dual gendered, two-spirit, a normal trans person, and soon, very soon, acknowledge that he is she, take on a female name, use it online, acquire a separate email address, and turn the page.

The acknowledgements page faces the contents page, and the chapter titles are frightening. She is seeing unfamiliar headings and can no longer close the book. Months will become years, in which she will write every week about this journey. It will be Andie’s Place. This will be the hardest journey in her 55-year life, traumatic and filled with grief, anxiety, the need for constant justification and she will lose completely the life and family she has loved and depended on.


It is now June 2014, one month away from the end of the procurement of change. She will grow and leave the journey behind, having learned so much more about life, about love, about being different. There is nothing more to ask for, or persuade others about. No-one to stand in her way of personal identity and fulfilment. No reason to stand out, or defend. No special service, no professionals as gatekeepers to her life. She will awake from anaesthesia, euphoric. Several weeks of pain and then a few months with discomfort will simply have to be borne, but with a now-familiar gratitude for closure.

The feeling she has is, yes, relief. The realisation of being transgendered – and then that transition is a lengthy process, not an event – has become clearer, as being a journey with an end. Her history will include all her life events: a slightly incongruous mix of experiences, expectations, conditioning, confusion, fatherhood and womanhood, constraint and freedom, that is rich, unusual, but integrated.

Her conversation will change perceptibly, because the one pursuit that has driven her life for so long will be achieved. Her poetry has already changed, its voice being still reflective, but outwards. Her dance has changed, having developed out of nothing. Her movements have noticeably lost their defensive, protective and escaping shapes, and now she skates, swims and flies, extended fully in the space.

Her employment is still good, but she is realising that stepping back and down, as a comfort and space within which to find herself, is a frustration to her leadership instincts. Working as a woman has been interesting, from encounters where men don’t expect her to have an answer, let alone a correct one, to those where she is simply not quite equal – or conversely where being transsexual is a good enough reason to expect differently from her than an ‘ordinary’ woman.

Life has come not exactly full circle, because whilst back in the real and ordinary world, ‘real and ordinary’ have been redefined. It has been a spiral, thankfully upwards.

With the end in sight, her message to anyone feeling they are at the beginning of this story, is that whilst the journey feels unavoidable, dark, destructive even, it is not a blind alley. The tunnel may at times be water-filled, but you can hold your breath long enough. It may be dark with no light at the end visible, but it is only a bend. There is only one person in this particular tunnel, because all are diferent. And that person is you. It may seem lonely, because no-one else can walk, crawl or swim this way with you. There may be blockages to worm around, or currents in the water that throw you about. But there is no reason to die in here, or to despair and give up simply because it is dark and unknown. People may be unkind, even cruel. Many will never understand. But they are not what matters. You entered this place not knowing what it would be like. The entrance seemed big enough to engulf you. As you leave, and you will, the way out will seem small, because you will have grown. It will be quiet, leafy, green and bright, undisturbed by thrashing limbs and protests. No-one fights to get out, because the air and light and freshness is simply welcoming and wonderful.

She still remembers him, and why he is no more. Not dead, transformed, made real. He received love for being him, but it was at enormous cost. Now she is only known for being real. Love may still seem a world away, but the world is loving in all those spaces that mean most. Being appreciated for music, for writing and for dancing is a wonderful confirmation of her personhood. Above all, among women, she finally and fully belongs.

Funny numbers

  • Posted on June 7, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Hanging on in there? Still reading my blog after all this time? Maybe you’re waiting for the juicy stuff before finally giving up? (Maybe I am!) Well, life is certainly interesting, even though I’ve lived in a bubble of my own since 2010, when it first dawned on me that I wasn’t actually some kind of weird unspeakable pervert living inside a ‘nice bloke’ persona.

I wasn’t a ‘nice bloke’ at all. That’s only what everyone else thought.

Last week I was coming to terms with the emotional build-up as I hit the six week mark; today I noticed it is just 40 days to go. The headache hasn’t completely gone, so it may not just have been stress at all. The fear is quite under control.

But these numbers are small, as I reflect on the scale and speed of things. Soon after I started my journey, media accounts of gender dysphoria were almost entirely sensationalist, and the first big thing landing in my marital living room (scary) was Channel 4’s My Transsexual Summer. In the three years since, a number of younger trans* personalities have emerged, written, acted, performed, interviewed and been recognised around the world. Musicians, actors, authors, journalists have used their professions to present being transgender or transsexual as simply one of the diverse outcomes of birth.

During the same time many hundreds of trans* people worldwide have been murdered for being trans*. Each year the Transgender Day of Remembrance has counted them, named them, remembered them. The media have broadcast and published the most appalling stories, even resulting in the death of trans* individuals. The public, such as parents at schools, have treated children, parents and teachers with incredible bigotry, as bullies. All over the world trans* people have lost everything, including hope, because society has proved unready to see the world and humanity as it is. Religious bigotry has been vile and violent.

Small change

And yet in this same three-year span, we have seen the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 in the UK, and many states in the US fighting this way and that to legalise it. Yet trans* people still feel marginalised as a special case. Lesbian and gay ‘rights to love’ are also terribly recent, and Section 28, legislating against teaching the acceptability of same-sex love only disappeared in 2003. Trans* people are still a step behind.

In a few weeks my prepared envelope receives its final insert, and goes off to request my Gender Recognition Certificate. This possibility only arrived in 2005, and still I have had to go through the mill of psychiatrists and an unsupported two years of so-called ‘real life experience’. Are you lesbian, or gay? Did you ever have to prove it to a string of psychiatrists in order to be believed, or validated? Was it ever in anyone else’s gift to pronounce you lesbian or gay? Do you need a certificate? Were you ever written in stone as heterosexual at birth? Have you ever had to tick a ‘homosexual’ box on a form? I set out on this journey to freedom to be myself just five years after legal permission to declare your own gender became possible.

These are the small numbers.

And the really big numbers?

The really big numbers are those identifying as transgender. Even narrowed down to strictly transsexual as in my diagnosis, 2% to 5% is a conservative estimate. That is what, about 12 million people worldwide? None of whom are believed and trusted for being who they say they are, administrated out of existence until extensively tested against subjective means. And perhaps a majority of these will never be fully accepted.

Zooming back in again, I am in one of the fewer countries where that is possible. I live in a city where there is above average tolerance, I have had a comparatively easy route through three years to achieve where I am, and in 40 days I shall have a few hours surgery, and then I shall feel completely at one with myself. And single.


Just to lighten up, I went shopping today. Pre-hospital and recovery stuff, so in the spirit of a first and a second, here we go, because they made me smile.

For the first time I needed to buy sanitary products. Post-surgical care you understand (the surgery isn’t that complete!). And yet it felt perfectly normal, and such a far cry from the anxiety buying my first female clothing ‘as a (nice) bloke’ in 2010.

For the second time in my life, I needed to go to Mothercare, for a baby changing mat. Decisions! Pink? Blue? Well, not the one with the matching bib … And would madam (proud grandma?) like to leave her email for future offers …? No; I don’t expect to be back. (For those not in the know, this is a matter of wipe-clean convenience for post-surgical aftercare.)

Nothing like a sense of reality, is there? Big numbers and little numbers can both be important, if difficult to compare.

O god, Godot

  • Posted on June 2, 2014 at 9:05 pm

I was in Ghent this last weekend, with a concert band. I’d been really looking forward to this trip, though I think now that I had also been seeing it as a marker on the calendar. It was a big thing coming, to be enjoyed, and probably the last big commitment before my surgical date. Unconsciously, it was a curtain to pass through, a last normality almost. I spent the entire weekend with a tension headache that seized my head, neck and back and refused to let go in the face of all medications. Have you ever sat in the middle of a concert band with timpani behind you, pumping out fortissimo on the trumpet? OK, you get the picture! Surprisingly, the focus of playing helped, and I wasn’t in a heap at the end of each gig. My room mate very sensibly observed that I had been through a lot of emotional stuff of late, and suggested that my body was reacting, and very kindly acceded to my request for a bit of a back massage to get me going in the mornings. But I did still bring this terrible and disabling tension head back with me, at midnight, after several very long days.

On the first night I just wanted to drop, but we had a meal booked for the whole party, and it took two and a half hours to be served. We all left before desserts in the end, with great upset with the terrible service. It wasn’t good for my head or emotions, and I wasn’t even drinking beer.

The next day I passed a restaurant called, more appropriately, ‘Allegro Moderato’! Maybe we should have gone there. And then, the ‘Grande Cafe Godot’ … we should have been grateful!

I did churn my thoughts at night while away. Not doubts, but what I should have acknowledged was fear. No, it hasn’t gone away, nor has the headache. But I was taken by surprise, since no-one talks about this stage. I have neither machismo, nor bravado, and nothing with which to brush this aside. Just waiting. Waiting not for permission, agreement, or recognition, but for something I have been offered and something I have chosen. Six weeks, this week; it feels interminable! This is the ‘elective’ bit. Well, the alternative is no better, it just has no event attached to it. I had no choice than to make a choice, and it has been a choice that few would welcome! And certainly one that no non-trans person can understand. That means there are few people to turn to. I have one friend though, who has been through this, and it was a great relief that she voiced it: fear. You are allowed to find and feel fear. I am scared, scared of pain, of being kept away from work, with no firm definition of how long, or of how my healing will go. Some sail through this, most have at least minor issues that linger on, and at every stage I could be feeling quite alone and uncertain of my body. Again, this is what I mean by being human being as a very lonely thing.

So rather than dwell on it right now, I do just want to say, for the record, that just because you have to do something that makes you feel right, doesn’t mean it does’t frighten you half to death. Fear happens. Fear has to be faced, not as a strong enemy, but as a presence. What I must equally not pretend, is that the fear isn’t there. And if this is you, in a similar place, be ready for it. I hope you have a loved one to hold your hand, if not, find at least one person strong enough to listen and simply be there. Again, with one friend, I am lucky.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting – just not for Godot, thank goodness.