Friday, 27 May 2011

So that was it then

    A train to London with my wife, a walk across town, through the park in the rain. A visit to the GIC. Much anticipated, over in about an hour.
    I'm there as my everyday scruffy bloke. Stubble and all. Nervous as hell, which is crazy. The clinic is easy to find and the receptionist is friendly, but this has been weighing upon me for months. And my trousers are wet. Damn summer showers.
    A couple of other patients show up, both transwomen, neither very far into the process judging by their demeanour. We smile at each other, then an uneasy silence. My usual survey of NHS waiting room reading material, Marie Claire, GQ and some interior design magazines. Then a welcome arrival, my online friend Kay. A middle-aged lady now long-post-op, on one of her very last visits to the clinic. She'd said she'd try to arrive a bit early. We chat, she turns out to be brilliant at putting the nervous at ease. I'm called away to the consulting room and she settles down for a long chat with my wife, for which I'm extremely grateful.
    The consultation was very similar to my previous ones with my local psychiatrist. Stepping through my background, my life story, where I want to go. Setting out my options, which are somewhat limited. Recognising that I need help to stay where I am, but that it may one day go pear-shaped and I might need to go further. Above all, I'm talking to someone whose job it is to know about the problems faced by someone like me, who has seen many hundreds of men and women like me and for whom nothing is a surprise.
    In fact, there was a surprise in store for me, I was handed a piece of paper and told to go up the road to the hospital for a blood test. Despite the fact I'm not asking for hormones, they want my base hormone levels. Which turned out to be a blessing, something of a psychological boost. Instead of coming away hopeless I had something in my hand, something to do.
    I've never been a fan of blood tests. Bad experience many years ago. This one was expertly administered though, completely painless and over very quickly. So with twenty minutes taken at the blood test clinic we found ourselves on the Tube back to the mainline station, surrounded by schoolgirls on their way home. Lucky things, just at that age at which they are turning from children into women. And they are probably finding all that excess estrogen to be annoying. Life's not fair, is it.
    So, back home before the time I'd have been home from work anyway. Enough time for my wife to take me out for a meal. It's me that should be taking her, for what she's done for me today.
    All in all it was a positive experience. Yes I came away with the same challenges as I went in, but I didn't expect them to hand me a miracle cure. What's important is that I'm now in the system and can access what limited specialist help there is available to someone  in my position. And one thing's for certain, my next visit towards the end of the year won't weigh on me nearly as heavily as this one did.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Narrative

    Later this week, I'll have my first GIC appointment. I'll go along as my everyday scruffy bloke and I'll tell the truth, answer all questions as best I can. My agenda is to seek help, not to pursue any particular treatment at all costs.
    It's interesting, being an observer within our community and being someone who is doing their best to avoid a hormone prescription rather than doing everything possible to secure one. When you announce you are going to the GIC, you are bombarded with advice. A lot of it is exactly as I've outlined in the paragraph above, just tell it like it is. But there's another thread of advice: that the only way to secure treatment is to tell them what they supposedly want to hear. Enter the Narrative, the Set List Of Things You Are Supposed To Say And Do To Get Your Hands On Hormones.
    We are a community of desperate people. It's part of our condition. In some, that desperation manifests itself in an obsession with accessing particular medical treatments whether they are appropriate or not. This is why we see people self-medding with internet hormones, or even flying off early to Thailand for backstreet GRS from one of their less reputable surgeons.
    It is this desperation that has evolved the Narrative. If you are worried that you won't sound trans enough to get the hormones, so the story goes, here's what you have to say and do.
    It seems you are supposed to appear (as an MtF) in girl mode. How else can they know you're serious? In fact, as I understand it how you present only matters to them if you are undergoing your Real Life Experience and they are at pains to point this out. I have heard tales of people turning up as bloke and changing in the GIC loo, how crazy is that! In my case I believe confidence is the best thing to present, and since I'm telling the doctor I want to stay as a bloke for my wife it makes sense to turn up as the bloke. I can do girl to good effect, simply in this case it doesn't make sense.
    And then there is the life story. You're supposed to spin the stereotypical yarn of the girl trapped in the boy's body, you've known since birth, you hate this and that part of yourself, you're supposed to gloss over the fact you've made it through five decades, marriage and a family successfully as a bloke, because you were Never Really a Bloke and You Knew It All Along. I've heard this story as it evolves in the minds of others, and even I can tell the people who are laying it on thick. I'm sure the doctors at the GIC will have heard it often enough to distinguish those whose narrative really did happen that way.
    It's easy to become frustrated with the hurdles imposed by the Standards of Care. Especially the somewhat stricter version adopted by the NHS. I'm sure we could all pick holes in some of the the things they require, or treatments they won't provide. But when faced with people giving them the Narrative, you start to understand why they have such rules, and why they sometimes seem unfairly biased against us. Don't get me wrong, if I wasn't doing everything I can to avoid it I'd be waving a deed poll and wanting to start my RLE as soon as possible too so I could be ready for GRS in two years time, but I hope I'd still be telling it like it is.
    I can't help thinking that it's the Narrative and its effect on the medical profession that's responsible for some of those extra hurdles we face at what is a rather difficult time. And that really isn't helping anyone.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Orange seagulls

    Getting out of a car without flashing the world is not easy when you have very long legs and have decided that it's warm enough to break out the floaty number. Oh the tribulations of the oversized!
    Last night brought an unexpected chance for an evening out presenting female, as my wife was at a friend's place the same evening as a regular t-girl gathering at a very nice restaurant pub near Reading. So a quick phone call to my friend Dawn, and we piled into the Rollerskate for a blast down the motorway.
    There is something I still find incongruous about doing something like going to a pub that is normal for me as a scruffy bloke, yet as a woman. It makes me laugh as well as the satisfaction of presenting the way I feel, to look down and see this girl, where there used to be this bloke. And when I pass unnoticed in broad daylight it just gets funnier. I'm glad it works that way for me, knowing other people in my situation who to my mind look a million times better than me yet who are gripped by terror at the thought of venturing beyond a safe space, my just seizing the moment and going with it is infinitely preferable.
     Last night's gathering was a chance to dress up a little. Or more to the point, dress up, but not a lot. One of the fortunate things about our community is that you can almost never be overdressed, but it pays not to overdo it. As always my outfit had to pass the "would a natal woman like me wear this" test, and I hope with a knee-length summer dress, smart LTS jacket and no heels I didn't draw attention to myself. There was another "These people must be really unobservant!" moment on the way into the pub, but I guess the blokes with their eyes on a cool pint of Stella Artois just didn't give us - a tall woman and her old lady friend - a second look on their way to the bar.
     It is always something of a smack in the face to remove the trappings of femininity after such an outing. I needed last night badly having spent the last week or two in something of a state, but every time going out as girl becomes a little easier to do and putting it away afterwards becomes that little bit more of a wrench.
     Driving back home through town the car was surrounded by wheeling seagulls in the orange sodium light. The tourists and revelers leave discarded food everywhere and our feathered friends turn up after hours and clean it all up most efficiently. To be honest I was glad of them, they took my mind off more annoying matters. Gulls are not birds you want to get on the wrong side of, but close-to in flight, especially on an atmospheric evening in a near-empty town centre, they are quite a sight. I wish I could call them up to banish the girl blues at other times.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

A whole week.

    In the past eighteen months I have surprised myself with the frequency with which I have updated this blog. I have enjoyed writing it and through it I have both explored the mess in which I find myself and made friends who have been of amazing support to both me and my wife.
    I thus feel rather surprised, looking at the date, that I haven't had anything to write for a week. Normally I've found a blogging formula in writing on matters pertaining to my gender issues when I have something to discuss,  random other things that are happening around me when I don't, or when I just need a pick-me-up to take my mind away from sleep deprivation, depression or the other annoyances of life dealing with a noisy inner girl.
    But this week: nothing. I have sat, looking blankly at the screen, wishing I could find a way to say what is on my mind, and I've failed. I have even been too apathetic to answer some of your comments on previous posts.
    My problem is easy to spot, I'm off to the GIC in just under two weeks and it's weighing heavily on my mind. I will sit in a doctor's office in an anonymous West London clinic, and not a lot will happen. Nothing new there, I've known what they can and can't do for me for quite a while now. But somehow it's now a lot more real, while previously it was sometime way off in the future.
    So I'm sure my turmoil will be short-lived, I'll have my day in London, get it over with and life will go on. At least I have something to look forward to, following the success of our outing a couple of weeks ago my wife would like us to do it again. I may not anticipate much progress from London, but that's not the only direction from which progress can come.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


    The attitude within our community towards 'admirers' - people who find transgender people attractive - is not always a positive one. Tales are told of evading spaghetti-armed pests in gay clubs, and of some members of our community whose pursuit of one-night-stands, we are told, demeans us all. I am aware of at least one support group that as a result has a policy of not allowing (genetic) men presenting as male to attend, something that would have prevented me from attending a year ago had the Swindon group had it and that I know caused problems for a long-time-post-op friend when she went along with her perfectly normal bloke husband.
    I've encountered a few admirers myself, and none of them lived up to the stereotype. Amiable middle-aged blokes, not my kind of romantic interest at all even if I was in the market but I'm very happy for the full-time-TV of my acquaintance who's heading for a civil partnership with one of them. I had a slightly surreal in-depth conversation about Rusty Old Wrecks and other machinery with another last summer, gosh how girly I have become!
    Another admirer of my acquantance is a bit different from the stereotype too. She's a vivacious and attractive twenty-something girl who very much prefers her partner to be presenting as female rather than male. I'm fully aware that my attitude towards her is completely different to that I have towards male admirers and as a result I find she has challenged some of my assumptions on the subject. Being challenged is good, so I thought I'd share.
    So as someone who's grown up with a lifetime supply of testosterone and a full set of male gender conditioning classes the idea of being 'admired' by a gay bloke is a little uncomfortable, while that of being 'admired' by a heterosexual girl isn't. Do I detect some double standards and an air of repressed homophobia about it all? Perhaps, and if so it's a fleeting view of myself I don't like. The next time I hear a lurid tale of someone's narrow escape at Pink Punters, perhaps I'll ask them what on earth they expected might happen if they attended a gay nightclub wearing rather risquée clothing, and the next time I end up having a surreal chat with a harmless admirer I'll simply remind myself that this is another thing millions of women everywhere have to put up with all the time. I just hope my twenty-something self was enough of a gentleman with respect to the non-trans women of my acquaintance when I was doing something similar.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Going solo

    Last night my wife and I joined a couple of friends for a meal at an Italian restaurant in a nearby town. Four friends out on a weekday evening. Why was this worthy of a blog post? The evening was arranged at my wife's instigation, and I was there not as my usual scruffy bloke but as my best shot at a stylish-yet-casual Jenny in LTS jeans and a Desigual top under my grey LTS trench coat.
    That's right, my wife was extending her comfort zone by arranging an outing with me as Jenny. Previously any such outings have been in the company of our local support group and she has not always been at ease even then. That she voluntarily made such an effort I find to be demonstration enough of why she is worth whatever efforts I can make to hang in there for her.
    All things considered, the evening went very well. I was severely spooked though when on drawing to a halt in the car park a slightly dodgy looking bloke appeared at the car window. It turned out he was completely harmless, he merely wished to share his frustration at the ticket machine being out of order.
    So for the first time I was out in public in Jenny mode, almost solo. Just the two of us meeting our friends, no support group for protection. Passing through a familiar space, past other couples, even a group of teenagers. No darkness to hide in, it was about twenty minutes before sunset. The big surprise was that I didn't notice anyone spot me. Not even the bloke in the car park. Were they suddenly smitten with blindness or something? I flatter myself I don't do a bad job, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't still have something of the bloke about me. And with my size I'm certainly difficult to miss.
    I think I managed it not through a feat of passing but one of not standing out. My efforts not to deliver any unexpected cues had paid off, and for those passers-by engrossed in their own concerns I simply didn't feature on their radar. My outfit passed the "Could I imagine my sister or my cousin wearing this?" test so I succeeded in looking just enough like a tall natal girl as they are that nobody made the effort to look any further.
    Yes, we had plenty of nerves. I've been ready for this for a long time, waiting for my wife to feel strong enough to be comfortable with it. However ready you might be for this moment, it's always going to be a challenge. But as is the only way to proceed with these things we just went for it and had an enjoyable evening. I am hugely indebted to my wife for feeling able to come this far, and to our two friends for their company and support.
    It is going to be increasingly difficult to keep this in the box, but I know the alternative of not doing so would have eventually been far worse.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Black on white

    I have discovered a striking new manicure technique. It's very eye-catching, if a little dark.

   You should all be familiar with a French manicure. Two-tone white and colour paint for your nails. Most impressive when done well.

    But what about black instead of white? A little Goth, perhaps?

    Simple to do though. Take one Rusty Old Wreck, and fit it with a new clutch. The accumulated oily grime of five decades of motoring accumulates under your nails, and like all the best quality cosmetics it has impressive sticking power.

    Damn, I'm out with my wife tomorrow evening and I don't want to be sporting black lines on my fingernails!