Friday, 29 June 2012

Blistering performance

   For someone as motor-afflicted as I am, I find myself in an odd position. Completely without wheels. The Rollerskate is briefly off the road as it waits for an MOT test due to the mechanic having to postpone its original appointment, the bike needs a new battery and the Wreck? Well, the Wreck, always my backup vehicle in these situations, has burst its radiator.
    To be fair, the rad was in a bit of a state. Its predecessor sprang a leak years ago when I was an impecunious youth, so instead of a new item it's a part from a later Wreck that came from a friend's stock of second-hand parts. In other words, it probably sported more than its fair share of limescale and other assorted crud accumulation which has never made it the most reliable cooling device. At various times I've used Magic Bottles of Stuff from Halfords to flush it, but the car has always been a little prone to overheating.
    So earlier in the week I was driving across town and heard that chilling steam-whistle sound of high-pressure coolant escaping. Opening the bonnet, there was a split at the side of the rad. Damn.
    The best thing to do if you want to get home in these situations is to let the pressure out of the system so your precious coolant doesn't all spray away. Now that's pretty dangerous, you can't just open the radiator cap because boiling water will spray everywhere. The technique is to use a rag, and to gently turn the cap while pressing down hard on it, letting the pressure off without the drama.
    I didn't do too badly. No drama, no spray of boiling coolant. But I didn't reckon for a jet of superheated steam when the pressure first let off. The rag is supposed to protect you by absorbing the steam, but mine didn't quite manage it and I thus now sport an impressive blister on my middle finger.

    Painful business, this old car lark.

    The World Expert on Rusty Old Wrecks was sympathetic. He has a couple of radiators appropriate for my model of Wreck in stock, each reconditioned with brand new cores. And best of all, they're affordable, cheaper than the cost of reconditioning my original Wreck rad. The world of old cars is a funny one, these rads are cheaper than you'd expect because their new cores follow a slightly more modern pattern than the originals, therefore originality enthusiasts won't use them. Me, all I care about is an efficient cooling device that won't leave me by the road.
    So thanks to an extremely obliging friend picking the part up for me, I should have the Wreck back on the road tomorrow morning. My finger however, will remind me of the event for a week or so to come.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Paved with good intentions

   By coincidence, both Coline and Nikki were in my part of the world at the weekend. We spent a day wandering round town seeing the sights, stopping along the way at my local café for lunch.
    Coline took a picture of me, scruffy bloke sitting opposite her. When she showed me the camera screen it was a shock, looking back at me was an unflattering portrait. I looked tired and haggard, and sported huge dark circles under my eyes.
    It's not surprising, really. I'm sleeping, but it's as if the benefit of that sleep is not being found. Stress is leaving me finding difficulty in my everyday functioning, and I'm suffering as a result.

    My wife has in effect called time. This is exacting a toll on her, and she pointed out that she's more likely to be unable to stay in the long term if things remain as they are than if I move forward. Everything I've worked for over the last few years, and it hasn't really worked.

    On Friday my counsellor explored the same thing with me. As a truck reversed into the busy traffic of Fulham Palace Road outside, she laid out my damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't choice. Stay as you are and lose, transition and probably still lose.
    Then she asked me if I'd consider a third way. Hormone therapy without full-time transition. Probably the first time in all this I've heard anyone there take my wife's mental state into account. My answer, faced with such a bleak future, was yes - but to then point out that such a path is outside the Standards of Care followed by that clinic. And then there would be all the effects of the hormones. Growing a bust doesn't worry me, but how would I manage to present as a bloke with a set of B-cups? It would be tempting, but I can't see that path as anything but a delayed route into transition.

    So here I am, in a bit of a state, still the day-to-day scruffy bloke but having reached the crunch time. I tried, but in doing so I've not succeeded in keeping my wife happy. I am exceedingly lucky that she's the kind of person who can talk about this. But then again if she wasn't I guess she'd have packed her bags years ago. At least I'll never be able to say I didn't try hard enough.

   What now? More of the same. See the counsellor again, talk about it. Talk everything over with my wife. I am not going to put her in a position in which she is uncomfortable with me, I can't compromise on that front. But she's not comfortable now, so I've already messed up on that one, haven't I.

    One thing's for certain, I feel a lot closer to the edge tonight than I did two weeks ago, and I can't say I like it.

Monday, 18 June 2012

DIY endocrinology, now available on the NHS

    A friend recently mentioned that she has decided to take a short-cut, to self-medicate with estrogen rather than submit to the interminable wait for hormones through official channels.
    It's her choice, and on reflection I don't think it would be mine. Though I'd be happy if I could secure a hormone prescription before going full-time I'm at peace with the notion of an RLE requirement if that's what it comes to for me because I subscribe to the view that living as a woman is more important than  accessing any particular treatment. But she's at an advanced stage of desperation and who am I to judge her decision. I've made my views clear enough in the past on the whole sorry mess of self-medding becoming the de facto route into hormone therapy.
    Something she said made me take notice though, something I'd heard the same thing from others but had never before considered the implications. Her doctor is happy to give her regular blood tests to allow her hormone levels to be monitored, but is not prepared to give her any advice or referral based on those tests.

    That's right. We do endocrinology here, but you? You're on your own!

    It's understandable I guess, they stray into a huge legal quagmire if they offer official support for strictly unofficial use of medication. Sure, they are qualified and experienced to give advice on basic endocrinology even if they aren't world-class experts -  they do it every time a natal woman comes in for HRT, to name but one of many endocrine issues they face - but they need the endocrinology in question to be under their control to be able to do it properly. In offering the blood tests they're going out on a limb somewhat, doing the best they possibly can for their patient without exposing themselves to malpractice claims. Can't blame them for that.
    This is not a good situation though, because even though it provides the requisite information it still means the patient relies on DIY endocrinology. You'll probably have heard the DIY endocrinology line somewhere in this sphere, that endocrinologists just use a trial and error process to get the levels right and it's so simple anyone could do it. How dangerous a half-truth can be.
    I can't help thinking yet again that the whole situation is an unholy mess. A lot of transgender people seen to end up self-medding through necessity and though the medical profession frown on it they provide just enough help to facilitate it. But not enough help to enable the patient to do it in complete safety.
    Yet again I wish there could be a grown-up conversation on the subject. I see other clandestine medicine being provided without question - to drug addicts, or to teenagers needing contraception - and I can't help thinking that if it's legally safe for those kind of services to be provided then there must be a way for it to be so for endocrine advice to be given to a self-medder. I wonder whether the atmosphere of reluctance to do so comes from fear within the medical profession of a perceived rather than genuine legal threat.
    After all, there are people facing real medical issues because of this, and isn't fixing that what a doctor does? Can you be nicked for simply practicing your profession in that situation?

Friday, 15 June 2012

Festering folicles Batman!

    Fortunately there is no real festering involved beyond a handy excuse for a title, but it's time for a quick run-down of laser facial hair removal progress.
    Tomorrow, I'll be off to the clinic for my fifth treatment. An hour catchin' some Joules, followed by a day or two of soreness and mild swelling. A lot of the current crop of hair will come out with the laser, thereafter over the next couple of weeks I'll have odd hairs popping out until I'm clear for the next crop to start coming through. Regrowth when I get it is now very patchy indeed, there is starting to be an end to this process in sight.
    My laser light is coming from a Lightsheer diode laser machine. My operator is very good at her job, and I'm satisfied with the result.
    I'm curious though, my experience seems to differ slightly from that of other people. Not for me the mass ejection of hairs in the weeks after, I don't get my razor choked with dead hairs. Is my hair coming out on laser day unique to me, to Lightsheer, or to the skill of my operator?
    It is extremely fortunate that I have very little body hair. Before you get too envious consider this, we all have our own package of good and bad points. You may have back hair, but I have size UK15 feet, and unlike back hair there's nothing that can be done about that.
    There is however a small amount of hair on my chest. It responds well to shaving, so I've put up with it so far. I'm wondering though whether to have something done about it. Either more laser, or much more economically, an epilator.
    I'd be curious to hear other people's experiences at this point, on both hair removal fronts.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Advice to a young person

    I'm a moderator of a mailing list for transgender people in my part of the world. Today, I had a membership request from somebody self-describing as a young person with transgender feelings.
    We all want to help someone like that. We went through that, and it was awful. But we can't, because of course such a person is a vulnerable young person who really shouldn't be talking to people they don't know on the Internet. Child protection laws aside, it would be irresponsible of us to admit someone in that position, so the group has an age policy of 18 years old and over.
    Here's the mail I sent. I hope I hit the right note.

  Thanks for joining our group. I'm Jenny, group moderator.
I'm mailing you directly because you mention you're a young person.
Having grown up having to hide gender dysphoria I guess I know
something of what you are going through and I know just how confusing
and dreadful it all is. I think we'd all be very anxious to help
anyone in your situation to ensure you don't have to go through what
we had to.
However, because you say you're a young person we have to proceed
with caution before I can approve your membership. There are all sorts
of child protection laws to stop Internet predators and all kinds of
dodgy people who might take advantage of young people, and as well as
being highly irresponsible we'd probably be breaking some of them if
you are under 18. Though we're all pretty normal people we are after
all people you've never met, and I don't think any of us have the
background checks that for example teachers have.
So I guess I have to ask some slightly difficult questions.

First of all, are you 18 years old or older? If so, welcome aboard,
how can we help you?

If you are under 18, are you out to your parent or guardian? If you
are, we'd be only too happy to provide you with whatever support we
can, but only through them. Don't worry if you aren't out to your
parents, we understand that only too well. I was in my 30s before I
came out of the closet.

If you're under 18 and still in the closet then don't worry! We can't
help you directly for the reasons I outlined above, but there is an
organisation just for you. It's called Mermaids, and you can find it

The Mermaids support page is here:

And their Yahoo group for transgender young people is here:

I hope the above is of some help to you. I feel rather crap for having
to proceed with caution in this way for someone who needs the help I
wish I'd had when I was younger, but I hope the Mermaids people can
help you.

If I can leave you with a few words for a trans person at the start of
their journey, here goes:

(1)You are not alone. You'll find men and women like you are
everywhere, getting on with their lives and doing fantastic things.
You do that too.

(2)There are as many routes through all this as there are trans
people. There is no single path you have to take if you don't want to
or aren't quite ready. Choose the way you want to go and do it in your
own time. Being young you have the luxury of time to get it right. You
don't have to transition at all, but if that's what you end up doing
it's better slow and right than fast and wrong.

Good luck :)