Sunday, 30 October 2016

An update on transition - My life ROCKS

So it has been a while since I did an update - added to the story of my journey to transition. I just watched a video by Claire Michelle in conversation with someone who transitioned like 50 years ago and it made me think it was time to get my ass in gear and update ya'll.

Life is worth living now. Ha, straight into it, but that is pretty amazing. It took me a long time to get to this stage but nowadays I actually feel alive. I have my moments, have my wobbles. There are little things that trigger me, as I have discussed in older blogs. But in general I would not change a thing with where I am. I am happy with my place in society, the things I do, the way my body is, the pace of my transition. Sure, I would love the odd thing to be different but there is nothing that makes me trip out.

Well, apart from the way trans people are dealt with by the courts, media and schools. We still have progress to make in these areas but I think progress is happening. Change is happening and eyes are being opened. Hopefully I am playing my bit part.

I could not do so if my life was not in a great place, if my mental health was not good and if I didn't have the amazing support of friends, family and colleagues. I have never shied away from the mess that I was. If I had not transitioned when I did my life was done. I think that this is the crux of whether or not you need to transition, as a friend pointed out the other night. I knew I had to transition. Others I have talked to say the same thing - they just could not go on 'getting by as the wrong gender'.

I hate that the press think that it is such a trivial thing, to transition. No one takes it lightly and we open ourselves up to all sorts of abuse. The stats for suicide amongst the trans community are crazy high and I expect that they are so much lower than the reality. Had I ended my life three years ago that would not have been registered as due to gender dysphoria - I would not have registered on the trans suicide stats. There is zero chance that this is uncommon. Right now we claim a figure of 35 - 45% risk of suicide for trans folks compared to 5% for the non-trans community, I say that the true figures could easily be more like 80%. But we can never question the dead.

Sorry, I need to vent a little here. The more visible trans issues are, the more we acknowledge that gender dysphoria is a real issue, the earlier we recognise it the better. The BBC have just commissioned a show aimed at 6 - 12 year olds talking about transition and this is amazing. On the other hand the Daily Mail is leading a campaign against this, against the trans charity Mermaids, against the trans and trans-supportive community at large. This kind of speech is dangerous. This kind of thinking will lead to the loss of lives. We cannot get away from that. It cannot go on.

Is gender dysphoria a mental health issue? Well, as I have discussed before - no, it just leads to issues with mental health. Before I transitioned I spent most of my life in a deep, dark depression. That lifted when I transitioned. Cause = effect. I love life. I have bad days, but I know that they are bad days. I can accept them as such. They don't lead to my mind spiralling into the depths. Transitioning is the best thing that I could have ever done and I will never, ever regret it.

Turns out that life is actually pretty fantastic when you do it right.

In my case, that means in a dress with a TARDIS tattoo on my back and a blood stream full of oestrogen. Bigger on the inside - damn right I am.

Now that I am in the place I am I fully intend to do what I can to use that and help others get to the same place. Social change will take time. It will take effort. It will not be overnight. The signs however are good in this country.

I cannot change the world but if I make one person's life better then that is what I am here for - what my life is all about. There have lucky that there have been a bunch of these moments in my life and of late I have had a bunch more. the other week I had a kid from a trans LGBT group call me cool. Cool - me! I'm a nerd. But I am living an authentic, and very non-incognito, life - the kind of person 'the youth' need to see (that makes me sound old doesn't it...); the kind of person that allows them to see that they are not alone. In the same way that old Baby Chaos albums used to make me see that I was not the only person who got depressed.

I am in a position where folks listen to me and there is a chance I can make little differences here and there. I am getting involved at the uni with loads of events, I have started helping with a local youth LGBT group, I am engaged with Stonewall, doing training to go into local schools. I am involved with the city and county councils in minor but still real way. I was able to bring up a horrible case of repression of a trans schoolie to a member of the county council and fingers crossed it will be followed up. I hope so. The meeting was totally accidental but now I have it I will be keeping my eye on it.

I can use my position as a happy, pretty successful, trans woman to fight for those who are not in a good place. When we have the strength we have to help each other.
I am doing what I can to bring things together, to make sure that efforts are not wasted or work is redone. I am seeing so much engagement from outside the LGBT community which is amazing - and this is where strength comes: from all sectors working together for common causes.

My life experience is LGBT but that does not stop me supporting disability or BME issues. This was echoed at a panel I watched yesterday discussing youth disability and the arts - it was amazing how welcomed I felt at the event. People almost seemed grateful that I was at the event as a member of the LGBT community which was, honestly, quite embarrassing. Just because I am fighting for LGBT rights does not mean I stop caring for other vulnerable groups. Those youths were bloody inspiring.

So yes - I am much happier in life and with that I can go about business like a real person rather than the shadow I used to be. I am comfortable in my skin and I am making the most of it.

I get looked at every so often, but I don't really care. Helps that I have the attitude that if folk give me a dirty look I throw them a grin back. I have learnt to accept myself so other people's opinions really don't matter to me as long as they don't have an impact on my life.

Talking of my own skin - that is certainly softer than it was. I am constantly amazed at what hormones can do. My breasts are not huge but are still on their way. My hips and ass are reaching proportions where I am happy in a skinny dress or jeans. Body hair has gotten significantly less and very light where it does grow. I actually think I am starting to have a reasonable body. Really gotta shake my belly off though - not climbing for so long has had its toll in my middle.

My face keeps changing. I am shocked but I really think it is still changing. I cannot explain what but when I look in the mirror, every so often I notice changes. The standard thought is that most physical changes happen within your first two years, but there are still ongoing changes for 5 years of hormones or so. At the 2.5 year mark, I am still finding surprises here and there.

This brings up an interesting point. The truth is that the younger you start hormone replacement therapy, the better the effect you get. However, you can still have kick ass results later on. I was mid thirties when I started and honestly I am so happy with what the hormones have done for me. I tend to pass by in the street without a second glance. It is only when people actually look at me that they realise I am trans. I am in no way 100% passable under any prolonged glance but I don't get clocked from the corner of eyes which I used to. Sure, I would love to pass 100% but I am comfortable with where I am. And let's be honest, if I was not comfortable being looked at I wouldn't die my hair turquoise. I am hiding nothing of who I am.

I guess this is why I am so lazy with practicing my voice. I have done a course of speech therapy, I can achieve a great pitch and can module my voice to a tone that would stand out less as masculine. Yet, I don't. Yes, I (still) hate my voice but at the same time I am comfortable with it. Partially it adds to the visibility and partially I am really, really lazy when it comes to practicing. Odd, but there ya go. Slowly slowly it'll change I think. I'm down with that.

So between features and voice, I am visible in public. That means folk know 'trans people walk amongst them' and this is actually pretty important. Especially as, every so often, someone will come up and ask you about it.

Yesterday I had a lady constantly casting me glances. After a while she came over and said that her child has recently come out as transgender. I was able to talk to her about it - assure her that getting things wrong at first is totally normal, remind her that her lack of knowledge on the subject is actually the norm but that resources are available. That support is available. I dunno, I hope something I said was useful. At the very least she was able to see that a trans person can exist in the community and be happy. Have a laugh. Just do normal things. I could see how many questions she had and if I were not visible, those questions would remain.

Sometimes just 'being' is important.

Whilst I am comfortable with myself, I still want surgeries. I am getting closer to my referral for bottom surgery, closer to the long waiting list for this. I am not happy with my body in this regard and the sooner I sort it out the sooner I can just get on with it. I just want it out of the way really. Being able to wear leggings without worrying about a bump would be ace. And in the same vein, not having to wear knickers that are so tight they are uncomfortable would be awesome too.

I also want some facial feminisation surgery, FFS. Sure, my face has changed and I like it way more than I ever used to but I would still like to alter a few of my more masculine features. Just get them a little in line with what I imagine in dreams. A few minor alterations.

I also realised recently that if I was offered a free boob job I may actually take it. I have never been of the thought that boobs make the woman. But for free… maybe. Not huge, just a little extra. I hadn't really thought about it to be honest but my gender clinic mentioned it on my last visit. Sure I'll take it if offered but I would rather have the two surgeries above first. Unfortunately FFS is not often available in England (yes in Scotland sometimes, I think) on our NHS. That is something I would like to see change - but I also would like to see the NHS actually be funded better all round.

Well, I guess I have made follow-up updates to previous blogs on mental health and physical changes, as well as going all social change warrior.
I guess that leaves the 'romance' side of things…

I watched a retired woman talk about how she has not made romance work for her despite having a long, successful life. Yet at weekend I hung with a married couple, one of whom has recently started to transition. Truth is, whether you are straight, gay, cis or trans you may or may not find love. Simple as that. It would be interesting to compare stats of straight and gay populations who are happily married but I don't have them and at this stage and I feel too lazy to research it.

From a trans take, I guess some of it is confidence and comfortability in our own skin. I am finally starting to feel normal in my own skin and my confidence is growing. Not that I think I am a sexy lady or owt like that but I feel happy with myself. I am still waiting for surgery, like I say. I think I would be much happier once I have the right bits. Hormones do 'effect' how things work and I also worry that were I lucky enough to be in a relationship it would get complicated changing so drastically.

So for now, when it comes to relationships, I am patient.

That does not mean that I don't look around. Well, I am not actively looking around but I am starting to notice people again. For a while it was like I had my eyes closed to others - which for anyone that used to know me probably sounds crazy. But yer, I was just happy getting on with my own little self and making loads of great friends instead.

Since changing my hormones a few month back I have started to develop mini crushes on people. Weirdly for me these are both male and female crushes. I have always had an open mind but I just never found guys attractive. But of late I find myself thinking "hmm, cute". This took me by surprise. It is only minor for guys - my big crush right now is femme, but it is an interesting change of perspective. Course, most of the guys are gay, damn, but there ya go.

And that raises an odd one in itself. I don't know what sort of sexuality I actually appeal to. If I appealed to a gay man then does that mean I am failing as a woman? Can a lesbian really fall for a trans woman? Can a straight woman? Hmm. It proper mashes my swede.

The idea of actually approaching someone and asking whether they like me or not is insane. I guess this stems from knowing that I am not fully accepted as a woman. Sure, folk will accept my gender identity and support me but on some level, some level there is that 'something'. That same thing that makes people call me 'sir' in shops when I am looking half decent. The subliminal level of acceptance, no matter how much I am accepted on a rational level. I'm not moaning about this, it is how it is. Heck, I have moments where I wonder how I see myself. In my dreams I have a very clear trans-female identity rather than just female.

Makes the idea of dating a 'mare! - Like it wasn't confusing enough as a straight teen boy.

I think we need little badges that say 'open to dating a trans woman'.

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