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chickenblogSomething like two and a half years ago, I wrote a blog post called ‘How To Have Sex With A Trans Man’. When I started my blog, it was intended for family and friends – a way to get around having to tell my story and answer questions several times. The vast majority of what I write is about my own ‘stuff’ – how transition has affected me, and how random vaguely transition-related issues have impacted on me. Occasionally, when the spirit moves me, I write something different, and given the number of bonkers ideas people have about sex with someone like me, ‘How To Have Sex…’ popped into existence.

Ironically, given the content of this one post of mine that is currently ‘doing the rounds’, I am sitting typing this in my single bed, accompanied only by an ancient cat. If there are any typing errors in this post, it’s the cat’s fault. Honest.

Ever since ‘How To Have Sex With A Trans Man’ was published, it has been by far and away my most popular post. This is explained pretty easily by how many people ‘Out There’ put things like “How do trans men have sex?” into your friendly neighbourhood search engine. Or “FTM sex”. Or “Can ftms have sex?” You get the picture.

As time has gone by, my posts to ftmark have gone from weekly to fortnightly, to monthly, to whenever I feel like it. Despite the lack of new content, I was having around 100 post views a day. Most of which, wouldn’t you know it, for that one post. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed – of all the posts I’d put together over time, some great, others mediocre, all the attention is on the one about sex. But hey, mustn’t grumble – maybe I was helping a few people understand that YES, trans* identified people can have sex, and that it’s not rocket science.

But it seems that inadvertently, I had spawned a monster. WordPress very nicely lets me know when things are happening on my blog, but when my ‘phone bingled at me a couple of days ago, I was really shocked to see that the blog had suddenly amassed 3000 views THAT DAY. It got worse (or better, I suppose, depending on your world view). Through the limited information available, it was clear that Facebook and Tumblr were generating thousands of views.

That terrifies me.

Remember that this blog’s intended audience from the start was friends and family. I worry a lot about what people I KNOW will think of my opinions, let alone thousands of strangers. And whilst I have had some amazing positive feedback after nearly 18,000 views in three days, there has inevitably been criticism, too. I’m a sensitive little flower, and when you’ve not deliberately gone out on a limb, that criticism from strangers can be a shock to the system.

I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve been scared of what to do next – whether I should just carry on and write the post I was planning (getting a passport in the UK), or try to acknowledge the increase in traffic by choosing a really ‘good’ topic. I’m very self-conscious now about writing, in case I offend someone, somewhere ‘out there’. It was so much easier when I only had to worry about offending my Mum. But you know what? Once all this dies down, and I’m back to my 98 views a day for the post with sex in the title, and 2 for whatever else I’ve written, my stress levels might be lower. Service will hopefully resume at some point soon, and you can all read about How I Got My Passport….

The cat says hi.

Dec 2014Please be warned, lovely readers, that in this post I will be talking about menstruation. Just so you know, as the ‘m word’ is not a favourite for a lot of trans* men. I shan’t be referring it to Shark Week, or The Red Menace, or anything else that sounds like a comic book villain, though I appreciate why people sometimes find that easier to deal with.

I officially stopped menstruating in March 2011, the same month I started taking testosterone. I was over the moon, and very happy never to have to negotiate the sanitaryware aisle on my own account ever again. The average time it takes for testosterone to stop menstruation is 6-12 months (with much variation – so if you are still waiting, try not to panic). I was exceptionally lucky.

Scroll forward to Summer 2014. Life has changed a lot, I am rarely taken as a woman, can still count my chest hairs on one hand, and am happy transitioning gently as I contemplate my upcoming 43rd birthday. This year seemed like a good time to try and sort out a few nagging health issues that are unrelated to transition. Right up there at the top of the pile was my anxiety. I’ve mentioned it before, so won’t go into the gory details, but anxiety is a constant, crippling, sleep destroying part of my life. I’d had enough, had tried every method I could think of, and many other people suggested, but the Anxiety Monster was taking over, so off I went to my GP.

My doctor has so far seemed very good regarding the issues I have, with a very balanced approach, a desire to learn and the ability to recognise that I’m not thick, and DO know myself and my body. After much debate, he prescribed Pregabalin, which, apart from a variety of other uses (eg: epilepsy, nerve pain management) is apparently very good for anxiety. I started on a super-low dose, and escalated up to a dose that was still barely in the therapeutic range. But it actually seemed to work.

The trouble is, that as my anxiety was beaten down to a manageable level, I started feeling really rotten, both physically and mentally. Now as I’ve previously mentioned, when you have a number of diagnoses jostling for position, it is very hard to untangle why you’re not feeling so good.

Then the bleeding started. Whether you call it menstruation or ‘break through bleeding’, I was having it. You’d think I’d have freaked out, but I felt weirdly calm about the whole business. I figured it was one of these things, and that it would go away. There was even an odd pride that my little ovaries still packed a punch. I went and bought pads (ironically, buying them at the same time that I collected my next box of testosterone from the pharmacy). Of course I spoke to my doctor, who ordered blood tests, the results of which were a bit of a bombshell. My testosterone levels are normally healthily within the male range (9.9-27.8nmol/L) at around 20. This time, however, they were 7.4, despite being on a full dose of testosterone. It certainly explained how I was feeling. See Running On Empty for more information about that.

I contacted my doctor in London, who calmed me down, and suggested that the Pregabalin may be interfering with the way my body metabolises testosterone. Now this is not him, or me, for that matter, suggesting that there is anything wrong with this drug. If you are already taking it, don’t just stop. You have been prescribed it for a reason. I would, however, recommend that if you have any reason to think that it is affecting your hormone levels, go and have a chat with your doctor. I chose to stay on it, initially, and my doctors agreed that I should increase my dose of T by 50% to compensate.

I menstruated for over 6 weeks, before the increased dose of T seemed to bring my body back into line, though my brain was haywire. I’ve now made the decision to come off the Pregabalin….carefully, with my doctors’ help. It seems like I’m stuck with the Anxiety Monster for now, and it looks like it will be a long road back to normality. The moral of the tale, if any, is that even drugs that same entirely unrelated may mess each other up. Testosterone therapy is a bit of an unknown territory for many GPs, so I guess it’s up to us to keep an eye, literally and metaphorically, on our own bodies and minds, and act on what we see.

relax in my heartOk, perhaps not buy. I’m not that skint yet. ‘Who will have’ may be closer to the mark, in all its senses. I have been on the dating ‘market’ for around a year now, and I’ve got to admit that twelve months on, it isn’t getting any easier. I’ll be straight with you here – I am not looking for love again (too painful) or a long-term relationship (too expensive…and painful). Just, you know, a date. And whatever that might lead to. I’m not proud.

My problem is this. Whilst I find my own sexuality, body geography and gender identity perfectly easy to grasp, that certainly isn’t the way other people see things. In short, in my experience**: lesbians have found me attractive until they find out I identify as male (too much of a man). Straight women have treated me like a pet eunuch: a non-threatening man who they can giggle about periods with. But definitely not sleep with (not enough of a man). Gay men have found me attractive until they find I have my original plumbing (not enough of a man). Straight (or, in my experience, bi) men have found me attractive if they are allowed to pretend I’m not really a man. If I emphasise my gender identity, they bail (too much of a man). I have been turned down for numerous explicitly and implicitly gender-based reasons, and it’s starting to jar me off.

**Oh, and before anyone gets their underwear in a twist about my broad, sweeping and stereotypical generalisation of people into four categories, I am talking about my own experience, and yes, I am aware that they are broad, sweeping and stereotypical generalisations. This is a blog, not a gender seminar. And in truth, I’m not quite such a big old sl*g that I’ve been hit on by every facet of the beautiful gender kaleidoscope.

Perhaps I have shot myself in the foot, cut off my nose to spite my face, or chucked out the baby with the bathwater, by undergoing a physical transformation. I have a masculine build, no breasts, but I retain the genitalia I was born with, by choice. Arguably, I have created a physical self that is so different from the norm that people need to think hard about what they are seeing. And when people think hard, that tends to be where the trouble starts. I have been told that I have led to people questioning their own sexuality (hurrah for enlightenment, boo for me going home without a shag). I try to be candid with people about who and what I am, and this has led to some slightly awkward email dissections of “what’s what and where”, which probably aren’t the best prelude to a fabulous date. Maybe I should just ‘wing it’ and hope that the surprise factor doesn’t get me thrown out of the bedroom, or worse. As an aside, did you know that in some countries, the shock caused by finding out that someone is trans* is actually admissable as evidence in court in defending battery and murder. Nuts.

So what on earth to do? Honesty has always been my policy, and I can’t imagine doing things differently. Perhaps I should just worry less what potential partners think – after all, if I’m not their bag, baby, there’s not a lot I can do to convince them. I know that some folk deliberately seek out trans* men, but as a very ordinary chap, I’m loathe to become someone’s fetish. I’ve been advised to seek out partners amongst the ‘Queer Community’, which is all very well, but I live in rural Norfolk. Plus, I’m not entirely convinced that that’s the niche for me.

Labels are dangerous things, and I prefer to avoid them. If asked to describe my sexuality, I say ‘mostly gay’, which tends to elicit a smile, but is as close to the truth as I can find in a couple of words. I find women beautiful (well, most, anyway!) but I’m not really looking to get cosy with them, if you know what I mean. But who knows? Gender comes in many hues, as does personality and, well, everything, so I’d be silly to say I’d never date someone based on something so fluid.

Of course, I never really anticipated that I would be in this position. I had always rather pooh-poohed the problems of dating as a trans* person, because I was sat blithely in my long-term relationship. Well, karma came back to bite me there, and whilst my ex is now happily engaged to the person for whom she left me, I am, at the age of 42, clumsily single and singularly clueless.

chickenlifeIt’s Mother’s Day again,
But my hopes are very low
For a present or a card
Or a call to say hello.

For I am not a standard Mum
And you’ve decided not to know me.
All those adverts on the telly
Aren’t aimed at male Mummies.

So I’m visiting MY Mum instead,
Who will offer me her shoulder,
Say it’s nothing I’ve done wrong,
And you’ll come round when you’re older.

Til then I’m stuck without you,
Forced to smile when people say
“You don’t have children, do you?”
I make it seem like it’s ok.

 

So here we are on Mother’s Day.
I’m feeling rather shitty.
But I’m not writing this to say ‘poor me’,
Or fish for anyone’s pity.

More to say that three years on
I’m still the same old Mum.
Ok, I’ve got hair in funny places
And a considerably smaller bum.

Male or female, I’m still the one
Who kissed away your tears.
Gender doesn’t dictate the warmth of a hug
Or whether someone cares.

But now I’m sent to Coventry, frozen out.
You act like I have died.
I just hope love will span the distance
And you’ll come back to my side.

In the meantime, here’s to all those Mums
Who won’t be getting a card
Or flowers, choccies, breakfast in bed.
Mother’s Day is hard.

its-not-the-beard-on-the-outside-that-counts-its-the-beard-on-the-insideI once swore that I would grow a big bushy fisherman’s beard once in my life, just because I could. Sadly, nearly three years of testosterone has failed to nudge the follicle pixies into action, and what scrawny facial hair I have would never make it onto a Fisherman’s Friend advert.

I have hair on my stomach, hair on my shoulders, even hair on my chest (if you squint hard…) but my face remains, for the most part, silky smooth with a hint of fluff. I see pictures of guys who have what I would call ‘proper’ man hair within a few months of starting T, and I am filled with envy. Even a teensy bit of bitter resentment. So why not me? And why does it matter?

Perhaps I should clarify here – when I said ‘for the most part’ silky smooth, I didn’t admit to the wiry growths sprouting from the lower part of my chin. Little clumps of hair that need chiselling off my chin, rather than shaving, and which resolutely refuse to join together into anything that might be recognised as a beard. I am surprisingly fond of my chin hair, to the point of not wanting to shave it off at all, rather letting its wiry strands form into some sort of portable art installation. It’s not that I don’t think it will come back (it does, in record time) but because this is one of the few things I have that hints at masculinity. Of course, many women have facial hair, so it probably doesn’t help me out that much, but I like to think that someone trying to work out whether Mark is short for…Markaret?…or not, might be swayed by my luxuriant chin sprouts.

I don’t come from a particularly hairy family, so genetically I am not predisposed to looking like Blackbeard. I didn’t start testosterone until I was nearly 40, so that may also count against me. Let’s face it, I am just me, and just like everything else in transition, it’s silly to play compare and contrast with anyone else. I am mostly very happy with who I am and how I look, and that, folks, is all that matters. HOWever, my lack of facial hair, combined with my (still) rather high-pitched voice, does make it hard for me just to fade into the background. I don’t like to stick out, and looking and sounding unusual for a man does become tiresome.

I may never be able to grow my fisherman’s beard, but I’d love to be able to manage a funky goatee. Or even a soul patch. Basically something that looks deliberate. As I mentioned earlier, it is mostly (though not all) those who identify as men who grow, and style, facial hair. I like to think that fewer people would misgender me if I have a ‘tache.

So what to do? I shave off the wiry bits, and the fluff, reasonably regularly, as I understand that this may finally persuade the follicle pixies to wake up and smell the Brut. I eat healthily, take my testosterone like a good boy, and short of going back in time and changing my entire genetic heritage, I don’t think there’s a lot else to do. Transition is a waiting game, and I may just have to buckle down and be patient. Or I could cheat and persuade one of the cats to sit permanently on my chin…

accountability-savage-chickens13 years as a teacher have left me thoroughly prepared for target setting. My New Year’s Resolutions are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Not for me the “I will be a better person” type resolution. Oh no – I have lists, tables, negotiated steps. Will my resolutions work out? No guarantees.

I took delivery this morning of a set of weights, with the intention of losing the lard I’ve put on in the last 5 months, and regaining my ‘gym shape’. They’re still sat looking heavy on the hall floor, while I find things to do to avoid opening the box…

I am having the healthiest online shopping order I’ve ever bought delivered tomorrow. To give you an idea, the first three items are celery sticks, seed mix and oat flower, lavender and chamomile teabags. Given that my body is currently groaning and moaning about the amount of fat, sugar and alcohol I’ve squeezed into it during the Festive Season (oh, ok, let’s be honest here, since July), I’m quite looking forward to reverting back to healthier eating.

I am, however, the Prince of Planning, the Emperor of Procrastination – the Demigod of talking the talk, and yet the Baldrick of walking the walk. I’m pretty sure that I will end up healthier than I am at the moment, but whether I’ll stick to all those SMART targets? Well, I’ll keep you posted.

Health aside, there’s something much more important I have resolved to do this year – to apply for my Gender Recognition Certificate. For those of you outside the UK, this is the way someone like me can apply to be legally recognised as male, and be issued with a new birth certificate. It’s a clunky process, has some costs attached and for me, at least, can be an emotionally challenging bit of paperwork to face.

I know for a lot of people in my position, apply for their GRC is the first thing they do having lived as themselves for two years, the legal minimum recognised by the GRC panel. For many trans* people, going through this legal process is hugely important so they can finally be properly recognised, and hold a new birth certificate. I’ve been procrastinating – not because I don’t think it’s important for me, but because it scares me.

Like my weights in the hall, I have metaphorically been staring at the boxes for nearly 3 years. I’ve read through the paperwork umpteen times, decided to get going gathering paperwork as evidence…and done nothing.

To a certain extent, the way I was living before did make a difference. I was in a civil partnership, so going through the process of being recognised legally as male would have caused a lot of upheaval. In the UK, a civil partnership is only currently permissable between two people of the same gender, so we would have had to dissolve our partnership before I could be granted a full Gender Recognition Certificate, then either marry as man and woman (which neither of us was that keen on, but which it’s fair to say would have had the biggest impact on my partner) or just carry on once more as unmarried/unpartnered. There was a time in our relationship where we were planning having a child, and the implications of our relationship status on whose name went down on the child’s birth certificate, and therefore my rights as a parent, was a serious factor impacting my decision to seek legal recognition of my gender.

Those factors aside, I have never been one to try and pretend that the past hasn’t happened. I feel strangely fond, and extremely protective, of the girl who is named on my birth certificate, who struggled for so long to work out why she felt so ‘wrong’ in this world. No, that doesn’t mean I am not 100% sure that I am Mark, but it does make me reluctant to erase any part of my past. A new birth certificate is what I need to achieve legal standing as a man, but I do not wish to be disrespectful of my old birth certificate, let alone pretend it didn’t exist.

So I’ve been staring at the paperwork for a very long time, and finding things to do instead. For those of you who are curious, I need to:

*Have proof that I have dissolved my civil partnership.

*Provide evidence that I have “lived in my acquired [*see below] gender” for at least two years (eg: driving licence, payslips, bank statements, utility bills, etc.). Apparently 5 or 6 documents will usually do. [*NB: ‘acquired’ is not my favourite word, as I don’t feel it reflects my experience or that of a lot of other trans* identified people, but it’s legalese]

*Give evidence of all changes of name.

*Provide 2 medical reports – one from “a doctor [or] psychologist specialising in the field of gender dysphoria” and one from my GP “including specific details of [my] treatment”.

*Send a cheque for £140 (this does vary for people on lower incomes).

So as you can see, it’s not actually that arduous a procedure, but I’m still sat staring at all the paper, and doing not a lot. Financially, I just need to find the fee, any charges my doctors will make for a letter, and, of course, the cost of the dissolution of my Civil Partnership. The ironic thing is, of course, that now I am no longer with my partner, I’d have had to face this at some point soon anyway. Well, there’s nothing like necessity to sharpen the resolve.

So let’s get all teachery on myself. My biggest New Year’s Resolution is to apply for my Gender Recognition Certificate. Is that Specific? Yup. Is it Measurable? Yes – I’ll either have done it, or I won’t, or be in the process of getting bits of paper together. Is it Attainable? Well, others have managed it, so let’s hope so. Is it Realistic? Yes – I’m not planning on jumping off the moon here. Is it Time-bound? I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know how long the whole process takes, but I should probably aim to have all my bits of paperwork ready to send to the Gender Recognition Panel by a specific date, so let’s say, for the sake of argument, 1st April 2014. April Fool’s Day.

Why do all this? A big part of me says that I don’t need a bit of paper to say I am who I say I am, or a Gender Recognition Panel to recognise my gender, thank you very much. However, to quote from the Ministry of Justice website: “If you are successful in your application for Gender Recognition, the law will recognise you as having all the rights and responsibilities appropriate to a person of your acquired [sic] gender”. I know exactly who I am in myself, and it would be nice for that to be recognised on a legal level. Not just the rights, but the responsibilities too. And that is why I have to make this New Year’s Resolution work.

Happy New Year, everyone – let’s hope 2014 is better!

TwitterAre you a UK based trans* identified man, a man with trans* history or someone with experience of the NHS as a person assigned female at birth who identifies as male, trans*, genderqueer or questioning your identity? The NHS are hosting a twitter club for trans* men on Wednesday, asking people to participate in a live debate about how the NHS and GICs can improve services for us.

This looks like an interesting opportunity to have our say. More information can be found here  http://aedanjwolton.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/nhsgenderid-nhs-england-host-gender-identity-twitter-clubs-to-improve-services/

Check out what Aedan has to say about this, and please pop along to Twitter to take part this coming Wednesday – 20th November 2013. Oh, and spend a bit of time looking at Aedan’s blog while you’re over there – it’s good stuff.

IMG_0881[1]It’s certainly been a while since I ventured near my WordPress account. I’ve had all sorts of guilty feelings about not writing, and an equal number of depressive-type thoughts along the lines of ‘What have I got to say, anyway?’ Silly Mark. Lately, though, I’ve started doing what I’ve done in the past for this blog…thinking thoughts, noting them down and pondering if I might be able to say something interesting about them. The Muse returneth.

Life has been what is politely known as ‘a challenge’ for the last few months. I have been living alone for the first time in many years, in a slightly chilly flat, watching the world go by, and being entertained by the antics of the people I can see out of my window, not to mention rather ‘eccentric’ neighbours. I’ve done my best to bury my hurting head and heart in work, though I wouldn’t recommend trying to be polite and perky to complaining customers on the phone for  5 or more hours at a time as an antidote to feeling sorry for one’s self.

I was starting to resign myself to the life I’d begun to carve out – my flat’s not so bad, and I’d only have to work in the office for another 20 years to get a half-decent pension. But now everything has changed again – the cat is, as they say, amongst the pigeons.

I have been offered the job of personal assistant and carer to a gentleman with a spinal injury. I’ve know him a little while, and we get on, and he’s looking for someone to live with him, do the stuff he can’t, enable him to do the stuff he can, cook, clean and generally be a modern-day Jeeves. I’ve accepted. What, let’s face it, do I have to lose?

However, moving AGAIN means I am currently surrounded by boxes for the second time in 4 months; I am trying to wrangle my paperwork into a recognisable format; trying to work out how to get greasy blu-tack stains out of paintwork, and generally going a little bit mental.

I have a week and a half left of my office job. I’ll miss some of the people I work with, but generally I’ll be a happier bunny for not donning ‘officewear’ every day and dealing with all the difficulties that working in a customer services setting brings. It’ll be good to work in a completely different environment, where I can be me. I know that a change of career scenery won’t solve all the problems I’ve had recently, but you never know. Maybe when life stomps on you, you need to take the hint.

So will I be back up and blogging more regularly? Yes, I hope so – I don’t promise my previous weekly or fortnightly offerings, but it’s about time I embraced by inner Blogmonster again. After all, in the time since I last wrote, people don’t seem to have stopped visiting, and I’m now up to 40,105 post views, which is altogether awesome!

I’ve been sorting out my driving licence today, and got some new photos done. I also, in my search for bits of paper, found the last one I had done, 3 years ago. I was pleasantly surprised by the changes – they’re subtle, but definitely there. As I am convinced, every time I look in the mirror, that I haven’t changed a bit during this journey, sometimes it’s good to see that the change is there, and possible.

 

Rainbow FishIt’s been a long time since I last blogged. I’ve been trying to think of things to write about that aren’t a) me bleating about how lonely I feel as a singleton or b) an obvious attempt to write about something other than a).

I have now been officially single for 7 weeks. I have spent much of that time purchasing household goods, drinking rather a lot and thinking of things to do to fill the hours. It’s funny that, thinking back, my partner and I rarely ‘did’ things together to fill the evenings, but somehow having someone else in the house makes the hours go by faster. So I am now reading more, trying to force myself to sit down and watch TV and films (I’m not good at settling in one place for too long), colouring and accepting any invitations that come my way for social interaction.

I’m not a big ‘go-er out-er’ but even in my current state I recognise that talking to people is probably Rather A Good Thing. It would be easy to become a hermit, but I’m quite sensible really, and try to get out of the cave when I can. I’m not even quite such a Facebook Fiend as I was. I’ve not really had the get-up-and-go to engage even with social media with any sort of sparkle. Plus, of course, the temptation to stalk is high, so I’m best keeping my typing fingers to myself for now.

I am fortunate in having very good friends, and my family have rallied round in true family style. With the best will in the world, though, I really wish people wouldn’t say things like ‘There’s plenty more fish in the sea’. You see, I don’t really want another fish. I was quite happy with the Rainbow Fish I had, and I can’t imagine finding another sea creature quite like her. You don’t live with someone for over 8 years without becoming used to the way their scales glint in the sunlight, the way their fins move, the way they react when they’re dancing with the shoal, or when a shark approaches.

That’s not to say that I can’t imagine that at some point in the future a passing haddock with a glint in their eye may tempt me. But at the moment I cannot imagine trusting a new fish, and more immediately, I cannot face the prospect of having to explain myself, my gender identity, my sexuality, my physical peculiarities, my head space and my habits to anyone else. I’d got too comfortable, perhaps, and starting again is terrifying.

I am assured by the very lovely people in my life, both ‘real’ and online, that given a few months I’ll start to feel better and want to peer out of my patch of sea-weed and check out the passing traffic. In the meantime I shall be concentrating on keeping well and keeping on swimming.

chickenroad2It’s been a tough old week. July 12th marked two years since I last saw my daughter. I sent her a card saying I missed her, and that I’d like us to get to know each other again based on who we are now, not who we were 2 years ago. I’ve not had a reply, but to be honest I didn’t really expect one. Still, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and processing, and I know that whatever happens with her, I’ve done nothing wrong and I must, above all, be me. Beating myself up for being myself will get me nowhere. I have a little mantra when the internal pain starts to knot up too much: I Am Who I Am, And I Will Be Who I Will Be. Cheesy, perhaps, but it works for me.

On Tuesday, my partner sat me down and explained very gently that she felt our relationship was at an end. We had both noticed that we were starting to live parallel lives, and whereas I thought it was a blip that would sort itself out, she has apparently felt for a while that the road to happiness is not with me. Is it a transition thing? Not really, though of course I have changed a lot, both physically and emotionally. I’d like to think that this has happened because of the normal wear, tear and change that happens in any relationship, not because I became Mark. Perhaps I’m kidding myself, probably I’ll never know, and ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.

So here I am, single again after (give or take) 11 years. I have always been a bit of a serial relationshipper – I’m not sure if that was out of some sort of fear of being alone, or just good luck. I am sort of looking forward to spending time with myself after all these years, though the flip side to this is sheer terror. I’d mapped out my life to a large extent – I’d assumed that the status quo would remain into the future, but here I am, on my tod, trying to work out what the f*** just happened.

I have very good friends and family, who I know will pick me up and dust me off if necessary. In the meantime, I have to start unpicking all the details of my life from my ex (I can’t get used to saying that) and work out how to face a new future.

Here is a brief musical interlude – forgive me a little teenaged angst and head-banging.