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  • Posted on June 29, 2014 at 2:40 pm

The trouble with being a writer is that sometimes you just have to write. When I began this blog I wrote twice a week, and as the weeks close on my gender dysphoria, my mind is filling again.

‘Uncoupling’ has featured in three key ways over these past years. Firstly, it was uncoupling from an accustomed life, presumed male, involving work, family, relationships, activism, social activities and so on. Secondly, there was uncoupling from all the love in my life, as my family and marriage disintegrated and I was no longer wanted. This was accompanied by having to leave behind everything I had accrued, socially and materially and emotionally.

This time, the uncoupling is from the gender dysphoria itself, and this is no small thing. I wrote recently of it as emerging from a long tunnel into daylight, realising nothing was following or chasing, and nothing threatening ahead, just open air.

This weekend has been once more profound. Starting (again) in my dance group, I felt such welcome, acceptance, and dare I say it, love, that I left in a mist of sheer gratitude. I had asked the whole group, that if any felt so minded, I would welcome anyone to track me down and call by during my coming absence from the dance. I do believe they would even stretcher me there simply to lie in the midst of the dance if necessary! But I shall be very sensible … And I know some will call round, and it will be lovely.

Some understand why I shall be away, and I do mean understand: that this is a fundamental and life-affirming thing for me, and that it will finally change important parts of my psyche. Some, not knowing the reason, have been afraid that perhaps I am fighting cancer, and I can only reassure this is not life-threatening, but something I have waited a long time for.

So as I face this uncoupling from my gender dysphoria, I have a small dilemma: to tell one who does not know, why I shall be away, places me in the category of transsexual (‘used to be a man’), where I do not want to be. Even this blog blows my cover, if that is what I aspire to. Uncoupling is not denial, though. It is just that this step is a very final and transforming one. It was my decision to ask for it and to go through with it, and is solely my responsibility.

Why this matters

I had imagined that everything would be smooth and gradual, a daily ‘getting there’. Then last week, I told of realising my body had changed more than I’d noticed. The summer clothes from last year and before just don’t fit as well. Red is a colour I can wear with confidence. I checked my bra size today. You know, I last did this properly when I didn’t have boobs, and had to buy some! I got the smallest cup size bra I could, and silicone fillers to fit that. When I didn’t need them any more, I simply went for the smallest cup size I could find online (40A isn’t in the shops much!) and it was OK. But today I am 38B, and that just feels more normal. And I tucked a favourite skirt waistband in a bit too.

It does just feel like getting more normal again. I don’t mean to say that being transsexual is not normal (other than in the statistical sense of average), but that I am a woman in a very normal way.

Last night I was chatting to a number of women musicians from Australia about bands, and countries, and travel and all the things we have in common. A year ago I would have been wary about being noticeably ‘different’, but nowadays it is only in reflection that being anything other than normal enters my mind. Being trans is a state of being I am leaving behind, and others are forgetting it too. This is good.

After the coming-to-terms and acknowledging the fear of surgery itself, a few weeks ago, things have changed. There is so much to prepare for, so that my return home is as straightforward as possible. Some will go against the grain out of sheer practicality, including ready-meals and a microwave oven, but only for a while. Right now, under the duress of zero hormones, I could be feeling down. My body and facial hair are unrestrained by oestrogen, and it annoys me! My moods may yet change and I may become irritable. I do know already that I shall be glad to be back on the pills.

Instead, I feel excited. I really, really want this, and I am almost there. I feel full of energy, and above all, incredibly empowered. That’s right, I, a transsexual woman who has come through serial psychiatric assessment and intervention, to live in a world where both women and transsexual people can be disadvantaged, having lost everything that meant most to me, without lasting financial security, and with no loving relationship, feel empowered. Remind me, as I struggle through the first month of recovery: I am strong.

And so I am expecting further change in the next six months, as I grasp this final uncoupling, this last big thing that has been holding me back.

I have met with my former wife a couple of times recently, so uncoupling still has a ring there too. I know I feel no differently about her than I ever did. I also know that there is no echo. This has all been too strange, and it is not something she ever has to come to terms with. I am still here, all of me, though released. It is unexpected; I look different, I ask directions, I call the waitress over; I am a woman. But not loved. Uncoupled.

Getting there

  • Posted on June 21, 2014 at 11:32 pm

My personal motto over the past few years has been ‘I’m getting there!’

Partly, it has been recognition of slow and steady progress, partly it has been self-reassurance when another day goes by and nothing has happened. Now ‘getting there’ means just a few more weeks, and then nowhere particularly to get to. I shall re-evaluate where ‘next’ might mean, in completely different terms. First, simply healing and gaining confidence in my body again, but after that it will be things like: what work can I best do or find that will make a contribution to my pension before it’s too late. And perhaps, how might I find love and romance again? Some things will continue, such as facial electrolysis … But there’s no story in that!

‘Getting there’ also means that this blog may also change. I may not write every week, or it may be occasionally reflective but with more poetry. I think what I have liked about getting here, is that I have met other people along the way, helped a few, and learned so much. Have I said it all, with regards the male to female transition? Three years ago, information was on the Internet to be found, but social media groups were fewer than they are now. Sometimes it seems everyone who successfully transitions has an urge to set up another page, write another book, start another group. Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be more openness, and hopefully, more acceptance. Some people have suggested that I create a book out of this blog, and I might. Distilled down, perhaps I can take a different angle on the whole business of gender self-identification and the impact on other people.

Meanwhile, the next few weeks (I was advised to be busy, very busy!) will be strange. I still have a few important things to prepare, people I want to see, things to write and concerts to play. And I have refused to allow anything to interfere with dance. Mercifully, my decapeptyl (testosterone-blocker) dosage runs through to surgery. The three-monthly jab will have been almost exactly three months ago, so it means no rush of testosterone coming unwelcome at the last. (Never have I been more grateful for a drug than this.) Already, I have had to drop the oestrogen, because it holds a thrombosis risk in surgery. How my body will feel for the next six weeks without it I don’t yet know, but I will be very glad to be back on it. It will also be almost exactly a year since I was given official and full dosage, and in that time my body has significantly changed in its overall shape – not just breast growth, but waist and hips. I like what I see in the mirror (well, from that point up) and my legs are good. This is what ‘getting there’ has also meant.

And perhaps strangely, excitement lives with me. I say strangely, because this is major surgery, and as I explain my forthcoming absence to people who don’t know what is being done, they look terribly worried, and then I excitedly say not to, because it isn’t life-threatening! But I don’t explain. After all, I’m only ‘getting there’. Every time my ‘bits’ get in the way, feel awkward or painfully squished, I know it isn’t for much longer; and it simply feels good, very good. I’m so looking forward to looking in the mirror, naked, in less than one month’s time. And to simple things like my knickers fitting properly (!), and dancing in leggings, or wearing a swimsuit.

Encounters remind me of the distance travelled: people who notice my body looks different. Today I came across a photo of me and my former wife when she ran the Brighton marathon just three years ago. I wondered who the rather unattractive grey-headed bloke was, standing next to her, as I stared at the thumbnail icon on the computer. Enlarged, he was wearing an unfamiliar tee-shirt: ‘Proud husband of …’, thoughtfully procured by my since-estranged daughter. And then there was a photo of my last Christmas with wife and son. Who was the bulgy bloke with longer grey hair? And how could he have been attractive to the woman next to him? And I realise that she may find another similar to take my place. If that’s what she wanted, well, I am a long way away from that.

Other encounters are much simpler now; the poet who took the trouble to find and contact me to express appreciation – which was mutual. The dancer in tears from the emotional experience of a very shared dance with me. The busker who sang just the right song as I was passing, leaving me in deep, quiet tears in the middle of the street. The German lesbian visitor who described me to a friend as a strong woman. And all those who don’t know what ‘getting there’ means to me, as I arrange my two months’ absence. My masseuse who kneads my body back into shape each month, who has been so supportive over ten years and shares my gratitude for this journey.

If anything, I feel this week like someone who has run a marathon, who is walking the final yards because the time no longer matters, it’s not about the clock, just about getting there.

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.

Ordinariness; nearly there

  • Posted on May 17, 2014 at 11:42 pm

There is a number in my diary this week: 8.

In 8 weeks I shall be changed for good. Now is the best time to test my conviction and all I have said and done over the past three years.

What if … What if in 9 weeks time I were to wake, as if from a trance, and come to my senses and think: ‘Oh my goodness! What have I done?!’ Have I just been carried along on a wave, retro-rationalising everything I’ve said, reconstructing a narrative out of a merely uncomfortable childhood, supported by people with ‘real’ gender dysphoria? What if gender is such a social construct that all of this has been unnecessary, and I could have lived some kind of a life as a ‘different’ kind of man? I guess it is conceivable that since gender dysphoria is primarily self-diagnosed, I have blind-sided four psychiatrists.

It is imperative that people like me force our imaginations into these places. What follows now is irreversible, so it had better be right. Changing my mind at the eleventh hour cannot be more embarrassing than coming out and being not very good at being a woman in front of a load of people who have never heard of gender dysphoria other than tabloid ‘sex-swap’ headlines.

So if you get to this stage too, I would urge you to think the unthinkable, take yourself there and see what you find. Stand on the edge of your current reality and play-act a realisation that you were wrong after all. Imagine the waking up and thinking it was all a dream, just as the anaesthetic starts to take effect. Any shadows of doubt in there?

I have done this – and I am still longing for the outcome.

Going solo

This feels a lonely time, all the same. It’s a door only I can go through. Eight weeks is a short time, and I need to be very well planned at home and at work. I don’t come home to a partner or carers, though I have one friend and a sister who will get me started on the road to recovery. A few have promised to come round in the following weeks, but I am expecting a tiring slog through very careful maintenance, accompanied by books, none of the usual social activities, recorded music, not played, and a degree of boredom. I must write poetry, though I don’t think much of the time will be inspiring!

This is the unglamorous reality. At the start, the realisation that I might be understood rather than wicked, was very comforting. Buying clothes, starting to look right, was a challenge I could at first retreat from if necessary, but it felt very good. As I moved on, came out, left to live alone, at least people were calling me brave and courageous! This now reminds me of an earlier poem ‘Guts’, and I am not sure as to whether I am giving birth or being born!

It’s lonely because I am gradually saying no to summer events, to projects at work, and cutting myself out of things I would normally throw myself into.

It’s lonely because I no longer have the one best friend who might have been close by and practical.

It’s lonely because the one person I loved most in the world is now living her own life with no reference to me.

It’s lonely because whilst I have friends on Facebook and ‘out there’, this time I need practical help to get through my days, get it right, feel reassured, know there is someone there.

And when I get back to work a lot will have happened in my absence, in the band the concerts will be over, and the dance will be cautious. I shall no doubt feel quite out of touch and tired, unable to commit so much, and not getting into work so early.

No-one can do this but me. I shall get there, the other side is in sight, but for the first time in my life I face a real physical challenge with no nearest and dearest. A friend told me recently to be really busy in the last three weeks. I feel the need already!


A friend said to me this morning that he had watched me changing a great deal over the last two years, from the nice man he met and who made him feel welcome, to announcing my change, reappearing as a woman, and gradually changing in shape and manner until now, when I appear so completely comfortable in myself. It makes me realise that, although two years is not so long, the journey has been. I am very settled, and I do admit that although I am still here the same as ever, inside this skin, I have come a very long way. I sat and talked with my ex-wife recently, and for all the total familiarity, I must seem so very different externally, especially since she has not watched it happen week to week. When I left her, I had just finished part-timing, just finished compromising, and had yet really to grow into myself.

I also am aware that just as I have moved away from trans spaces, this next step becomes the end of the conversation. If I can help other trans people find their way forward, then I will. But as for identifying as trans, though it was my starting point for how I am, it becomes my history. Do I still have gender dysphoria? In most ways, no I don’t. The end is so in sight, that the real work is done. After this I am just a woman, and my goals are anything other than further change. I shall continue to develop of course, but life plans and decisions go back to normal. And the conversations about gender will become fewer and further between. Everyone will breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe I shall find new friends who don’t need the resilience!

What feels important to me now that the dialogue is dying away, is that I come to real understanding with my ex-wife. I hate saying ‘my ex’, because it summons antagonism, falling out, acrimony, and I never felt that, only grief and disappointment. I can only call her by name, like any other friend, seek pre-booked time-slots like any other, and compete with better friends. Until we find what friendship either of us wants, all I can do is try to rebuild her trust in this woman who used to be her husband, and who still loves her, but will forever be separated.

It all feels very ordinary compared with the intensity and traumas of seeking treatment, learning to live differently, and being aware of stares and comments. It has been long and arduous, and I am amazed to be here and feel safe. But I am tired, very tired, because of all it has also taken away. I need to be ordinary. In a way I really do hope that’s what it will be. After all, the past is a sticky thing, and I am no better understood, not really. I was greeted on Monday this week with ‘Did you see who won Eurovision? I saw Conchita and thought of you!’

Oh for some real ordinariness!