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Inside out

  • Posted on May 3, 2014 at 8:19 am

I am reminded that for some people, genital surgery is unimaginable, or should not, could not, be imagined. Scary isn’t it, that something so intimate and personal might undergo intervention with a knife.

Look away now, read some other post on here instead, because this is one of probably several to explain, without the gory detail, what I am looking forward to in another 11 weeks.

The first thing I want to say is that what lies ahead for me is not the allure of something horrible being removed (I am not that kind of dysphoric), but of something being given. I have not at present got the parts that I feel in my deepest place of self-awareness, belong to me. Yes, having a vagina means everything, after which I can die in peace (not for a while yet though!). It is not unusual for people like me to feel that our minds, brains, inner awareness and attachments have made it all the way there some time before we give our bodies up to the experts.

I do remember my ex saying one night that she couldn’t imagine having the dangly bits, and I do remember saying that I could easily imagine having her bits. I have thought that for a very long time. It came through in meditation quite strongly, long before I transitioned, even before I really appreciated that gender dysphoria was a diagnosis for my turmoil. Nowadays, it comes through very deeply in dance, where body-awareness is part of the approach.

Ah! No gory detail yet, then! You’re still reading, with one foot over the brake.

You see, if you are just naturally heterosexual, and strongly binary, your sexual partner’s bits are the attractive complement to your own. You can’t imagine actually being like that, you like them because they fit yours, and partly because they are so different. I mean, if this is your way of being, why would you want to touch someone else’s bits if they looked like yours? Yuk! (That’s how it is, isn’t it?)

Similarly, if you were born with the same bits as me, and are hetero-binary, then your crown jewels, your orbs and sceptre, are incredibly precious. They give you the power to be sexual, don’t they?

So I do understand how what I am facing seems very odd, even objectionable to you. Are you a partner of a trans person, hoping to god that they don’t want to actually do this? Let’s try to understand each other. A bit, anyway.

For starters, you can probably see that for someone like me to fervently seek this surgery, it has to be both serious and very different from your own experience. Using your male bits, and enjoying the experience, is no indication that the feeling of missing something else is present. It isn’t a double-think, and it isn’t any kind of denial, and I understand that taking something away can seem a very hurtful, bizarre thing to ask for. It is, therefore, something that cannot easily be spoken about with non-transsexual people.

For those of you who want to continue reading …

There are three parts to my surgery, and all of it is simply a process of recycling. Not much is wasted, though some of course is not needed any more. The first is vaginoplasty, which involves turning you inside out, or rather outside in. We share a lot of very similar tissue, it has simply developed and grown in different directions, after all of us having had a proto-uterus in early embryonic weeks. So don’t be surprised. The second is clitoroplasty (why waste a good sensation?), which recycles the bit that feels nicest. This is perhaps the element most likely to fail to ‘perform’, so I’m crossing my fingers. The third is labioplasty, which gives you the outer shape. OK? Not too squeamish still? Don’t think about the knife, just understand that the result is an amazing reconstruction of what my head believes is the real form I should take anyway. Maybe like you. You like how you are? It feels natural? Of course. Same for me, when it’s all done.

What I am trying to express, knowing that the concept is very alien to hetero-non-trans people, is that we share a lot of the same raw material down there, but in our head or hearts or wherever ‘self’ is, we have a fairly clear idea of our own body, mapped into our minds. Mine is as real as yours, and I accept that it is different.

This is why I say that the procedure for me is all about what I gain, not what is taken away. It is a big putting right, a correction. So don’t ball-up in squeamish imagination of anything being ‘cut off’, relax, and think that something instead is being restored.

An act of kindness

  • Posted on January 19, 2014 at 9:41 am

Today I threw away a blog post. Too much a Sunday sermon. Instead I just want to be bright.

Regular readers will know that I slipped into considerable despondency over letters that take two months to type up (it’s 2014 folks, there’s technology available), and appointments that take five months to be arranged, and waiting lists that add a further nine months. Would it really take five years, from recognising what my whole-life problem had been, to receiving final treatment?

My despondency on the phone led me to ask one final question two weeks ago. Who could I ask about how long funding decisions take? A name was offered, a helpful person told me that it was cleared two months ago but never communicated.

Then, due to an act of kindness, I found that I could have my funding redirected to a different provider. The NHS is not against this, and all my paperwork for surgery is already complete.

Another kindness: being able to talk about and see the results of this surgeon. We need this, not just photos and explanations.

Reassured, I made phone calls and wrote emails. Suddenly there were people who were being kind, who were talking to each other, returning my calls, including me in, emailing each other, transferring documents. Goodness, they were just being nice, and helpful, and reassuring. In the space of a week all is in place, a first appointment made, and suddenly I know where I’m going. It will cut a year off my wait for treatment, and at last I have a horizon, over which the sun is finally rising.

Perhaps it is the contrast, but I saw in how I was spoken to, dealt with and responded to, more kindness than I’ve felt from NHS services in most of my gender encounters so far. So all I really want to say this week is that I am back in the world of sheer gratitude. I haven’t cheated the system, but I have sought kindness and found it.

Thank you to everyone involved.

Please press delete

  • Posted on September 23, 2013 at 5:47 pm

I was staring at thousands of emails in my inbox a few nights ago. Virgin Media seems to find it impossible to connect me with myself, or my old broadband account with my new – and will therefore delete my old email address in 30 days. No problem, except my laziness over I.T.-related geek-mails on doing stuff better, and old but interesting subscriptions on environmental issues. Nothing personal at all, just stuff. So why not make sure there’s nothing I really need in there, and delete the lot now? I never send on this email (for obvious reasons) so perhaps I should be thankful. Mind you, I used up most of my month’s phone allocation last month, in phoning Virgin Media about my current email address, which they also could not associate with the fact that they take money out of my bank account for broadband every month!

So, deletion it was. You will be familiar with that moment, when you don’t know for sure if ‘delete’ really means delete? Is this really gone forever, or just in trash/recycling? (And own up, have you never rescued a crumpled up email from the trash bin on your PC?) And bit by bit, all those old and largely forgotten or unwanted emails flew away (you do know that if you hold the Shift key while pressing Delete, there are no second chances?). Job done, and less risk of my emails blowing apart from overcrowding in the folders.

I relived this today. Off I went to Charing Cross (Gender Identity Clinic), in elated expectation that I might get a bit of a schedule for surgery. It’s been four months since I had a full diagnosis sent to my GP. No more questions, I thought. Finally, I have been understood. I’d been given the impression that I was looking at spring 2014 for an end to all this. I was really excited that at last, this would all be over. I was imagining dancing in leggings without the tunic, sitting on the beach in a swimsuit, swimming again, maybe even finding an intimate relationship …

Instead I found myself going over the same ground all over again. I can’t remember how many times to how many people I’ve rehearsed the same things. I even had to sign a form saying I’m white, British, for the umpteenth time. OK, ink is cheap, but my life isn’t. I really couldn’t believe it. No, the clothes were never a fetish; no things I wore from the age of 14 were not sexual. No, I repeat no, I do not doubt this. (You know, some people feel just like you do, and then decide it isn’t for them?) I have not thought for a fragment of one moment that I am perhaps after all, not a woman. Not one fragment of a fragment. You see people every day, you hear their stories, but you will never know what it feels like to know what you are, in this way, to be of a gender at odds with your bits. Have I noticed any body changes after taking hormones for 15 months? For fuck’s sake, these are my boobs!!

Nothing was contributed today, other than to satisfy yet another person that I should be referred for surgey. OK; I think I get it now:

  • You go to your GP.
  • Your GP refers you to local psychiatry (you wait 2 months).
  • Your local psychiatrist recommends your GP refers you to the gender clinic (you wait another 2 months for this letter to travel 3 miles across town).
  • You get the referral date – in all, a wait of 6 to 9 months to see a psychiatrist at the gender clinic.
  • The first psychiatrist agrees you should get a second opinion, so back to the beginning of the same queue … (you wait 7 months for this appointment).
  • You see a second psychiatrist, who confirms a diagnosis as transsexual and recommends your GP prescribes hormones.
  • You stop buying your own hormones …
  • 4 months later you go back to the gender clinic and see another psychiatrist, who agrees with the previous one, who agreed with the one before, who agreed with the one your GP sent you to … who agreed with your own diagnosis of gender dyspohoria.
  • 4 to 6 months later you see the surgical team and once more (with feeling) you go through the options and risks that you’ve already researched in gruesome detail on the Internet and with post-op friends.
  • (At this point I shall get my GRC (gender recognition certificate), followed by a replacement birth certificate.)
  • 6 to 9 months after that, you probably get your operation date.

That’s how it goes in the very best scenario, and, to be fair, mine has been. I didn’t present to my GP until I was 100% sure about myself. I attended the clinic long after self-prescribed hormones. I received my full diagnosis 14 months after transition. I had my final referral out of mental health, into surgical, 18 months after transition. I shall have full legal recognition of my gender, down the very last deletion of my male assignation, six months before surgery. The whole journey to finding out that gender dysphoria was a diagnosis that fitted me, to the end, will be four years.

And you know, in all that time, no-one has asked or offered a blood test? My GP won’t do anything without explicit instruction from the clinic, and no-one has looked at my breasts to see how development is progressing. Gender transition is 95% do-it-yourself. (They don’t hand you the scalpel!)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful in any way, just very, very frustrated, that after a lifetime’s struggle, at the age of 56, I’m still being asked today:

‘Do you really want to delete?’

‘Are you really sure?’

’If you press delete, you will, in fact, be deleting this file. Are you sure?’

I am holding my Shift key down very firmly and pressing Delete even more insistently.

The only other option is Ctrl+Alt+Del

I think you know what that means.