Thursday, 30 September 2010

Busy month

    So it's the end of another month, about as busy a one as I've ever had. Not enough time to sit down and use a web browser so there have been a lot of blog comments I never got round to making and one or two posts that never made it here. Aren't you all lucky!
    Reflections on a new job, one month in. I knew the work would be more interesting and I knew the environment would be less stressful. I didn't expect that along with that would come such an upsurge from the girl. I'm working in a mixed environment and I guess some girl envy must be creeping in, I'm surrounded by very intelligent, attractive and successful women and while I'm loving it because I've completely left the bloke act from my previous employer behind it would be too much to expect for some of the scruffy feeling not to get to me.
    But there is plenty for me to do and I have a new experience, that of being respected as someone with my particular speciality. I've experienced so many awful management cultures it's a shock to find an organisation that's at pains to get it right.
     Now I have my feet under my desk (specially raised, with extra-large office chair and monitor riser) I can look forward. The job shift has been a success and I don't want the girl to get in the way. Time to start planning another outing to keep her occupied I think. It might seem surprising in this environment, but I've only had a couple of chances to be out of safe spaces presenting female since my debut in May, the opportunities just haven't presented themselves.
    There's something to look forward to!

Mrs. J in the community

    Regular readers of this blog will know that my wife and I are happily married and determined to stay that way through all this mess. She has her ups and downs with respect to my gender issues just as I have my ups and downs of the effects of GD, but we work through them and move on.
    Our interactions with our local community of transgendered people have been of great help and support. We have both made some good friendships that extend beyond the theatre of safe spaces and support groups into the real world. If any of you read this blog, you know who you are, and thank you.
    This week saw my wife take a new step. I am a member of a well-known UK forum for trans people, mainly because events in my town seem mostly to be organised through it. I wouldn't call myself an extremely active participant, but it's useful to stay in touch and it's where some of our friends can be found. This week my wife joined the same forum because they're her friends too. I hope she enjoys herself there.
    I have had people comment in the past about my accepting wife. I correct them and say that I do feel incredibly lucky to be married to someone like her, but "accepting" is a simplification. This isn't in the manual for Being A Wife, and as we've both learned the new manual we've started to come to an understanding of it all rather than a mythical acceptance. Of great help in this has been her accompanying me in my explorations of the trans community and I'd advise any other couple in our position to do the same together.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Unemployed? Sod off!

    I posted a couple of days ago about my appointment with the psychiatrist on Friday, and my referral to the GIC. What happened not long afterwards has troubled me slightly over the weekend and I think I'd better write about it here.
    On Friday evening I happened to meet a friend from another town in passing. She's like me, bloke on the outside at the moment, at the start of the NHS system. She's in a more perilous state than me though and unlike me she's wanting to go the whole way, hormones and GRS where I'm seeking a way to avoid them without going insane. She is also unemployed at the moment, as I understand it on medical grounds.
    I've been referred to the GIC. She hasn't. She's had her first appointment with the gatekeeper psychiatrist in her area, but unlike me she has been unable to secure a second appointment. The reason? She's unemployed and I'm not.
    Now I understand all about Real Life Experience. How in the NHS interpretation of the Standards of Care you have to prove you are able to live in your target gender role in the real world before being prescribed any hormones. And how that has to include employment, voluntary work or education. I have seen many different views on RLE, but they have a reason for it and that's the way they do it.
    I do not however understand how the employment requirement for RLE can be applied to an appointment with the gatekeeper. At the gatekeeper level you are several steps and a lot of time away from even thinking about RLE and there should be no employment requirement for psychiatric counseling alone.
    I am unaware of any other condition covered by the NHS for which there is a requirement to be employed before they'll even see you. Forget about the RLE requirement for a minute, that's about one treatment choice not the diagnosis. Maybe I'm missing something, but wasn't the NHS supposed to be about equal access to treatment for all regardless of their means? Or indeed what they are suffering from. I understand this may be a local policy from my friend's area rather than national NHS policy, but someone needs reminding of what it says on the NHS charter.

What's brown, and comes out of Cowes?

    Ah, the sights, sounds and smells of the British countryside, marvelous! My dad has spent a short time in hospital for a minor procedure, something we expected around Christmas but that happened now due to the whims of NHS waiting list planning.
    So I've found myself going back to nature for a couple of days, over at my parents place keeping an eye on our small herd of cattle. Not an onerous task, but I guess mucking out isn't to everyone's taste. I couldn't escape the stuff, yesterday afternoon when I went out in search of blackberries I managed to tread in a cowpat, thanks ladies! Maybe wellies would have been a better choice than trainers to cross the field, I've been gone too long.
    There was a time many years ago when I saw myself one day taking on this herd when it became too much for my dad. How much has changed since a younger me thought anything was possible. It's not just the effort required or the meagre financial return associated with small-scale farming but the less pleasant side of it. Cattle are not objects, mindless automata dedicated to taking in fodder and producing milk, beef and manure. Instead they are complex and gentle creatures, to get the best out of them you have to get to know them and understand their ways. They are all different, just like us.
    I don't know our current animals as well as I knew the generation before them. They know me and accept me grudgingly because they've seen me with my dad, but I don't think any of them would let me near a calf. I was rather glad of this unfamiliarity yesterday as I was mucking out, some of the animals were steers destined for market within the next few weeks.
    I am probably too sentimental about all this but I guess it's the way I'm built. I should be a vegetarian, but don't have the guts.
    Elsewhere this morning I harvested some of the apples that will make this year's cider. It's going to be a good pressing.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Stuck transsexual

    I had an appointment with my local gender specialist psychiatrist yesterday. Nothing special and it went very well, just talking about my referral to the GIC.
    He had a colleague with him who he was training. I had no objection to her presence, so the first ten minutes or so of the appointment was dedicated to his filling her in on my background and situation. His summation of my position for her amused me, it seems I am a "Stuck transsexual".
    It must be a medical term and all, but for some reason I can't help thinking of pigs.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Meeting Jenny

    So, a couple of weeks into the new job, and it's all a little different. One part of working for a large organisation that's new, is meetings. Most things that happen at my employer require them, what with there being so many departments that all need to talk about stuff and all.
    But they aren't so bad really. No doughnuts, but the coffee's good. And most of my colleagues are female, so I never need to worry about putting up a front in them. I just sit there mentally in girl mode, at peace with the world.
    One brought a bit of a shock yesterday though. A bloke from sales, or marketing or something. All shiny suit and brightly coloured tie. With a big knot. I could never master those. Hand shake, blimey, his dad must have told him that a strong handshake was a sign of virility or something, there's no need to crush! I'm not going to play that game, when you look like me you can hand-crush for England but it it really necessary? This might seem odd, but I've found people still think I'm a bloke without all that. More's the pity.
    Anyway, he's straight into the slightly domineering bloke routine. I get the impression he's not annoying personally, in fact I'd probably get on quite well with him down the pub, but he just seems so over the top in this setting. Do genetic girls feel the same way when they encounter someone like this or do they just not notice it, just part of the scenery?
    I feel as if I've crossed a line somewhere.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Noisy girl

    In my previous post I repeated a question from elsewhere and asked what it was that might make me think I'm a girl. I'm not going to attempt to answer that here, but I can suggest an answer might be found in my current predicament. To put it simply, just at the moment I'm running like hell simply trying to escape the girl.
    I'm used to girl moments. Those little dips of girldom that catch you unawares and drag you down for a moment. I'm fairly sure that a lot of my readers will know them too. Similarly I'm used to girl fog, that toxic mix of depression and gender dysphoria that steals your brain for a week at a time.
    What I'm not used to is the condition I'm in now. Not a girl moment or girl fog, just... girl.
    Life's been pretty good hereabouts these last few weeks. New job, lots of interesting stuff to play with, no more stress, no more commuting to speak of either. I'm sleeping properly, my wife's happier, we've been enjoying the late summer together. Last Saturday saw us somewhere in darkest Northamptonshire sitting in the sun with Lisa, looking very good in the glow of her first hormone patch, Sunday saw us just relaxing at home like any normal couple should.
    So why has the girl become so much louder? I've never felt like this before, there has always been an edge of stress with insomnia and the resulting tiredness to distort everything, then when the medication brought sleep I was always too doped up like Dylan the Rabbit to feel anything for a few days. It might sound odd to say this, but I'm finding it rather annoying and I wouldn't mind a bit of the bloke back between my ears.
    I had the Long Chat with HR today. No problem at all, legal formality dealt with, butt covered. I now know that I could go to work in girl mode if I wanted to. I know people who would kill for that opportunity! Fortunately common sense prevailed, my colleagues are safe from having to deal with the seven foot girl, and blissfully unaware of their good fortune.
    Something to talk about with the shrink then, not long before I see him again.

What makes you think you're really a girl?

    I read a piece from Hollie a couple of days ago. she was responding to an awkward but incisive innocent-sounding question in a comment: "What makes you think you're really a girl?".
    Such a simple question. yet one that strikes at the heart of our insecurities. When your whole edifice is one that would be readily attacked by so many people, to hear it from closer to home is something of a shock. Hollie wrote that she considered it might be an attack before realising that it was a fair question and answering it.
    Having read her piece I think it's a question all of us should ask ourselves at some point. Because in doing so we make ourselves stronger when someone else asks the same question.
    So then Jenny, what makes you think you're really a girl?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Part of the bloke departs

    Our oven died this evening. My wife nearly cried. What happened? An electronic component fried itself in the power supply and filled our flat with the unmistakable aroma of burned circuitry. It turned out we'd neglected one of the air intakes on the back of the machine and it had become clogged with dust over the couple of years since we last moved it, this might have contributed to the unit's demise.
     I am an electronic engineer by training. Not too long ago I'd have had the back off the unit in no time and there is a good chance that I might have been able to fix it. I have the skills, even if I don't use them for a living any more. Tonight I recognised that there was a good chance that if I tried to repair it we'd be left with yet another project, so we pointed this web browser at Argos and reserved a replacement oven for pickup tomorrow afternoon.
     I can't help thinking that yet another piece of the me that used to be has just departed. Tinkering with machines used to be almost what defined me, yet here I am throwing in the towel at the first tendril of smoke. There is still a chance I'll take a look to see what failed, but by then a new oven will be in place. Part of me feels as though it is missing.
    The new oven is a direct replacement from the same manufacturer for the one that failed. If you are looking for a combination microwave and fan oven then I can heartily recommend a Panasonic inverter oven. Just because ours died after six years doesn't mean they aren't damn good pieces of kit if you clean their air intake!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

My life in Hobbiton

    On my mobile phone there is a picture of me. One of very few showing me presenting as female. I'm not one for posting pictures of myself online so I won't be sharing it with you, but it's a picture of me taken on our return from Saturday evening's support group meeting just before I disappeared upstairs to revert to scruffy bloke mode.
    I'm standing in the sitting room of an ordinary British house, my wife is sitting in an armchair on the other side of the room taking the photograph. I'm wearing a tan pencil skirt and a colourful Desigual top, I feel great and looking at the photo I surprise myself by how good I look. Sure I'm no oil painting, but for once I see myself and don't see the bloke straight away. A bit of a shock really.
    So the picture shows a woman standing in a room. But there's something wrong. She's wandered into the abode of a hobbit. The doorway and fireplace, the sofa, even the picture on the wall are out of scale, it's like seeing a doll's house with a Barbie that's a tiny bit too big for it.
     For the first time I am seeing myself in girl mode as others see me. I'm used to tall women, I come from a family of them, but not even in my cousin who's only a couple of inches shorter than me have I seen this look of being out of scale to the surroundings. I always knew that for me there could be no stealth, but I'm now really beginning to appreciate what that would look like.
    It's not really put me off, but it's a slightly bitter-sweet moment. To look so relatively good in a picture and to simultaneously look slightly wrong. Still, I should take heart. Only a year ago I never thought I could ever look as I do in this picture, I've come a long way since then. And if I walk amongst hobbits there's something else to be happy about. They have hairy feet, and I don't!
    Good night!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


    There's plenty to feel guilty about, in this game. If you spend a large proportion of your life living some kind of lie, even if it takes you a long time to understand the true nature of the lie you are bound to have executed some deception along the way. And if you're built like I am, guilt inevitably follows deception if the deceived are people you care about.
     Guilt about the effect you have on those around you, guilt for things you did years ago. Guilt about stupid things you did in front of friends, guilt about that recurring daydream where upon having a referral to the GIC you just go for it. Guilt for feeling guilty about all of the above and more.
    My mother tells me feeling guilty like this is a female response. I think that's a genuine reaction, she's not saying that to try to make me feel better. She's a retired teacher and she has that annoying habit teachers have of making every conversation a lesson.
     I don't spend my days looking for evidence of female traits or mannerisms in myself, but if I did this wouldn't be one I'd choose for myself.
    My wife tells me to stop feeling guilty, forget the past or the future and live for each day. Good advice, but I don't find it that easy. Does anyone?

Busy in a good way

    It feels strange to be sitting down in front of the Blogger writing screen after such a gap. Only a few days in reality, it seems like forever. It's not that I've had nothing to say, it's just that I've not had the time to say it. It's been a busy week.
    The job's turning out well. A lot of my colleagues are female so the contrast could not be greater with my previous employer. And without the stress from an annoying commute and the office atmosphere I'm feeling a lot better too. I looked in the mirror the other day and saw the whites of my eyes. Not bloodshot, for the first time in nearly a year.
     Last weekend brought little opportunity to sit down either. The support group meeting on Saturday was followed by a motorcycle rideout on Sunday. Saturday evening saw a new frontier for me, I drove home in girl mode with my wife. Though I got changed at my friend Dawn's house, her comfort zone has not previously been relaxed enough for us to do this. In reality driving a car for an hour in the dark is just as unexciting in girl mode as it is in bloke mode, but that's not the point, it was a step removed from our usual safe space. If anyone noticed the extra-large girl who parked up in Dawn's road that evening I hope they'd have seen her confidently making her way, I certainly felt natural and in control rather than nervous.
    Then on Sunday, a rideout with a difference. By coincidence on the same weekend as the support group, five t-girls on bikes, two genetic girl pillions and one t-girl in an insanely fast car thrashing their way round the Berkshire and Wiltshire Downs. At the end of a perfect day we spent an hour just sitting in the sun near the Uffington White Horse gazing out across the Vale of the White Horse, perfect atmospheric conditions meaning we could see five counties.
    As all's going so well it seems unfortunate that I report I'm still feeling the pangs of GD. In fact I'm feeling more of the girl about me than ever just as I write this, even though without the extra stress I've had in previous months it's a lot more bearable than it has been. I can handle being girl-brained just at the moment if the rest of my life is in order. A surprising conclusion is that there is a positive side to not being able to shake the GD, it helps lay to rest that lingering fear that all this might be some kind of delusion. A crazy thing to worry about, but everything's crazy in this game isn't it.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Ze is nothing new

    I saw the piece linked below a week or so ago when it came out but was rather busy and never had a chance to post it. I'm rather surprised I've not seen anyone else pick it up, it's not from our corner of the web but it's rather interesting.
    Here it is. The Gender-Neutral Pronoun: 150 Years Later, Still an Epic Fail

Tudor horror

    Last week we spent several days in Turbocharged Rollerskate meandering the byways where England meets Wales.
    Opposite us at a traffic lights, a shop. "Bride of Ledbury". Must be like Bride of Dracula, only half-timbered with diamond paned windows.
    Well, it made us laugh, anyway.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Somewhere in a meeting room far, far away

    Today, my second in my new job, was the day I came out to my new boss. She didn't bat an eyelid.What a result!
    My feet have barely touched the ground so far this week. I guess the induction process of a very large company must be fairly universal, but since I've spent most of the last couple of decades either employed by slightly anarchic small companies or contracting on an hourly-paid basis for larger concerns it's something I've never been party to. The experience I relate it to most is that of starting school, the same terrors of getting lost in a huge campus, the same bewildering array of Senior People whose faces you are expected to remember. At least here I can't be sent to the headmaster's office if I slide on the parquet in the corridors. Yes. I was tempted. No. I didn't do it.
    So I now work for a publishing company, one whose products you've probably used at some time. It's an environment like none I've worked in before. A specific piece of my past work experience opened the door for me so I've been hired as an expert in my particular limited field rather than just an expendable general purpose coder amongst many. Sounds as if I'm blowing my own trumpet, but the trouble is among my colleagues are some seriously clever people. By that I mean dyed-in-the-wool brains trust, not rote-learning exam-passers or jammy gits with the gift of the gab, these are people who can figure out if you're not up to scratch in my kind of line pretty quickly. And they turn round and listen when I talk about my stuff, so even if I sometimes feel like an idiot I'd better be pretty damn careful not to sound like one.
    The office environment could not be more different to that of my previous employer. Gone is the banter, the references to drinking, jokes about whores and whatever else flew around between my ex-colleagues. Don't get me wrong, they're great guys, but all that really wasn't a help to me. In just a couple of days I've noticed I'm not bloking it up as I have had to for the last year. I'm just me, yes, a bloke, but not a BLOKE if you see what I mean. The girl fog will never go away, but I hope it's not being stoked any more. On top of that, the work I'll be doing is more interesting. A couple of years ago I was in the closet and doing this kind of work, then the recession happened and I had to abruptly switch jobs to much more mundane stuff. I'm convinced that move contributed to the mental stress that made my GD go out of control and forced me out of the closet, with luck this will help keep my brain occupied enough for me to stay on top of it. I can only hope.
    I said to my wife I'd judge my moment for the Long Chat with my boss. I had a pretext for it, an appointment with the consultant in a couple of weeks' time, so at least it wouldn't be such an awkward conversation to start. As it happened we had a meeting room to ourselves for an hour to go over all the boring stuff new employees have to sort out at department level once the corporate machine has spat them out, so it was convenient to bring it up at the end of that meeting. Straight into it, tell her I have the appointment, then "I think I'd probably better tell you why". How refreshing, someone to whom I don't have to explain what the words "Gender dysphoria" mean. I explained about the reasons for my path of trying to stay as a bloke, and that being open about it was one of my ways of dealing with it by removing the stress of secrecy. I won't be broadcasting it to all and sundry but I explained that if it does end up that people know about it then I won't be bothered because it isn't something I keep a secret. Her reaction was that it's a non-issue, in the context of my work I've been hired on the basis of what I've done, and I did that while having the same gender issues so why should it make any difference? Which is exactly as it should be. I had been advised that this employer was likely to be trans-friendly, here's my demonstration of that.
    A relatively trivial footnote: this employer issues company ID cards and door passes with a photo of the employee on them. Unusually for such photos, I don't find mine unappealing.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Old friend, new acquaintance

    A few months ago I described  the moment at which I discovered a mate of mine from one of my distinctly blokeish circles of friends was experiencing similar gender issues to my own. Last night A and I finally encountered each other in girl form, rather than the usual grubby outdoor blokes we normally see each other as.
    Nothing special, just an evening at a friend's house eating Italian food and watching films, but after several months it was good to see her out in the open. I think she makes a better job of it than I do, but isn't that always the way. She's a little more closeted than I am here in our home town so had taken a little persuading, I hope she enjoyed herself.
    I've heard it said before that transgendered people seem to share a surprising number of interests.  I read a piece recently from April about how a lot of us have obsessive interests in common as an attempt to divert ourselves from our gender issues, and A and I are no exception. We share a couple of the stereotypical interests for British t-girls, and each independently have a couple of the others.
    I can't help casting a speculative eye around the rest of the techies, geeks, adrenaline junkies and petrolheads with whom I spend the occasional weekend day of little interest to my wife, and thinking "OK then, who else of you do I have this in common with?". I'm sure A and I aren't the only ones. Time will tell I guess, as I edge more out into the open.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Unexpected referral

    This morning as we were fresh from our short holiday, a letter arrived. From the Gender Identity Clinic in London, confirming that I have been referred to them for an appointment.
    Well that's a result, I guess. Unexpected, the last I heard was that my local consultant was going to talk to them to see if anything could be done, and I'm due to see him again towards the end of the month. So things have happened faster than that and the result of his conversation is that I've gained my referral. No idea what they can do for someone in my position, but they wouldn't have taken me on if they had nothing to offer so it's got to be something to look forward to.
    Of course, nothing goes smoothly in these matters. The letter confirms I've been referred, but tells me that I'm waiting for my local Primary Care Trust, the NHS body that signs the cheques in my part of the world, to agree to fund me. And since my local PCT is legendary in its slowness when dealing with gender variant patients I'm not holding my breath for an early GIC visit.
    Still, I'm happy to see some progress, anything beats the uncertainty I was presented with at the start of this process.